Hemp policy at the end of 2018: legalization a long way off

The experimental article is now on course after all, a simpler handling of cannabis in medicine seems possible (but it takes time), a new hemp law has no chance so far. We bring an overview of the current developments.

What has been going on politically and what is coming up?

We can distinguish four areas in hemp policy: The pilot tests, the facilitations for hemp medicine, a new hemp law and the cannabis initiative. In LI81 we brought an overview, here now what has happened since then.

National Council now in favor of pilot tests after all

An experimental article in NarcA should create the basis for pilot trials with cannabis. This was demanded by five identical motions from parliament. The National Council had rejected the first of these motions (number 17.4210) in June 2018.

Now it was the turn of the other four motions 17.4111 to 17.4114, which had been submitted by the FDP, SP, Greens and GLP. These were adopted by the National Council on 19.9.18.

However, it was again very close: 98 Yes were opposed by 92 No, with 2 abstentions. All of the Greens, the SP and the GLP said yes. Almost all of the BDP said yes. The FDP was two-thirds in favor, the CVP still one-third, while the SVP was unanimously against.

The Council of States is also likely to approve these motions, as it had already said yes to the first motion.

The bill of the Federal Council

But ultimately, these motions were just the preliminary skirmish. What matters now is the development of the Federal Council's detailed proposal. The consultation period ended at the end of October 2018.

For this consultation, various organizations and experts were invited to comment on the proposed text of the law. It was highly disturbing that there was not one organization in the address list that knows the challenges of the consumers - who are supposed to be the participants of the pilot tests - at first hand. Neither we from the association Legalize it! as the largest interest group for the rights of THC users in Switzerland, nor Medcan, which advocates for affected patients, nor any other organization was asked for their opinion. However, since the consultation was public, no one stopped us from participating anyway. So, together with the Association Cannamed Compassion Genève (ACCG), the Associazione Cannabis Ricreativa Ticino (ACRT), the Swiss Safe Access for Cannabinoids (SSAC) and the Medical Cannabis Verein Schweiz (Medcan), we wrote a statement on the consultation and submitted it on 24.10.18: bit.ly/2ERmKjj.

(The commission initiative 18.402 of the Commission for Social Security and Health of the National Council (SGK-N), which had been approved by the sister commission of the Council of States, and also called for the drafting of a new experimental article, has been overtaken by the administration, so to speak. The latter has already prepared a draft for the attention of the Federal Council).

Pilot testing as NarcA-change

After the consultation responses have been evaluated, the matter will go to parliament: then it will be a question of the concrete amendment to NarcA, i.e. the decision on a new article for the pilot tests. It will be a close call, especially in the National Council - and even if the vote is yes, it may well be that a referendum will be held against this NarcA amendment. Then there could even be a referendum on this issue. The minutes of the National Council clearly show how fundamentally opposed the opposition is to any changes. The only thing they can imagine is more repression.

Facilitation for hemp medicine

Today's handling of medical hemp is very restrictive and cumbersome. Many want a certain opening to take place here.

The SGK-N had, after all, called for this with Motion 18.3389 of May 2018: “Medical dispensing of cannabis as a medicine to the chronically ill. Lower health care costs and less bureaucracy.” On 9/19/18, the National Council adopted this bill without discussing it. Now the Council of States follows.

More decisive in this area, however, is that the Federal Council has already instructed its administration to carry out corresponding clarifications. The Federal Department of Home Affairs (FDHA) must prepare a consultation draft by summer 2019, which should show how access to medical cannabis can be facilitated. After the consultation, the Federal Council could then bring this business to parliament (hardly before 2020).

At least it has now received a positive signal from parliament. It is not yet possible to predict when a corresponding bill will be introduced (and with what content).

Hemp out of the NarcA

A new hemp law had been demanded by the Greens with their parliamentary initiative 17.440 “Federal Law on the Regulation of Hemp (New Swiss Hemp Law)”. As was to be expected, this project unfortunately did not succeed.

On 11.9.18, the National Council voted on whether this proposal should be followed: 86 were in favor, 104 against, with 4 abstentions. Again, the Greens, SP, GLP and BDP were all in favor, but the FDP was split, the CVP almost all against and the SVP all against. This means that this project is finished.

But the issue is not off the table yet. The motion 18.3150 “Equal treatment of cannabis and high-proof alcohol” submitted by National Councilor Heinz Siegenthaler (BDP) in March 2018 has not yet been dealt with.

In September 2018, the postulate 18.4009 by National Councilor Beat Flach (GLP) was added: “Legalize cannabis and generate tax substrate for the benefit of AHV/IV”.

The smaller parties, the Greens, GLP and BDP, can therefore continue to keep the issue on the boil. But it will only be enough for a majority in the National Council if, in addition to the Greens, SP, GLP and BDP, the majority from the FDP and many from the CVP also join in.

Cannabis Initiative

In the magazine Legalize it! No. 81 (Fall 2018), we reported on the challenges we were facing or would face before collecting signatures. In the meantime, the form of the new supporting association to be founded, the planned timetable for the initiative, and an idea for two pillars of a regulatory model for Switzerland have developed.

New sponsoring association

In principle, organizations that can identify with the goal of the association - a re-legalization of cannabis in Switzerland associated with certain regulations - should be represented in this supporting association. They should also agree with the means of popular initiative in this question.

The new association should underline the alliance for this. That is why the idea is to compose its board of directors from four different areas: one quarter each from politics, health care, the economy and the organizations that primarily advocate for the rights of users.

The organizations in the new supporting association can each turn to their representation on the board to contribute their position on the various sub-topics.

The board of the new association is to be elected by the general assembly, which will take place once a year. This board should then also support the formation of the legally required initiative committee (7 to 27 persons) as well as the technically important expert committee. In addition, the board will be responsible for identifying a management team that will form the secretariat of the initiative.

The secretariat should take over the operational management of the initiative, i.e. the maintenance of the communication channels, the instruction of the helpers, the processing of inquiries, the organization of the collection and certification, the management of the database and many other things that a secretariat does.

Provisional schedule of the initiative

The timeline for the initiative is now as follows (here's the status as of November 2018):

  • December 2018: meeting with interested parliamentarians during the winter session in Bern, finalization of the new budget.
  • January 2019: Founding meeting of the new supporting association, formation of the board, financial planning.
  • February 2019: formation of the management team, formation of the secretariat, final consultation of the initiative text.
  • March 2019: Start the process with the Federal Chancellery, finalize the communication strategy, set up the collection bases.
  • April 2019: Set up credentialing tool, finalize collection strategy, prepare for final meetings before signature collection.
  • May 2019: Last meeting before the collection of signatures, instruction of helpers, preparation of the collection launch.
  • June 2019: Start of collection.

In the 18 months following the start of collection, the focus will logically be on collecting and certifying the required 100,000 signatures.

Two pillars for a regulatory model

The industry association IG Hemp, together with the addiction association GREA (Groupement Romand d'Etudes des Addictions), has thought about a possible cannabis regulation model for Switzerland. This model consists of two pillars with ten principles:

1st pillar

Topic: Protection of the population Goal: Protect vulnerable groups, promote low-risk use, minimize potential harm from cannabis use. The principles for this:

1) Protection of minors

2) Promotion of low-risk consumption in terms of health.

3) Information of the consumers

4) Prevention and sanctioning of driving and performing certain professional activities under the influence of cannabis

5) Restricting cannabis in public spaces and in advertising

Pillar 2

Topic: Control and regulation of the market Goal: Ensure clear rules for the market, create the necessary regulatory tools for the authorities, create incentive taxes. The principles for this:

6) Control production and ensure traceability.

7) Separate market for medical and non-medical products.

8) Sale of cannabis in specialized stores.

9) Taxation of cannabis to finance accompanying measures.

10) Supervision of production for personal use

The whole document with all sub-items is available on the IG Hanf website(bit.ly/2S0kKXF). It is worth taking a look at it, because this model will also shape the new supporting association and will be accordingly important.

Last modified: 2024/03/27 08:56

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