Newsbrief: Switzerland Marijuana Legalization Moving, Opposition Mobilizes 2/28/03

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Switzerland's achingly slow progress toward marijuana law reform is once again inching forward, with hearings having taken place in parliament last week and a final vote scheduled for May. The Swiss Senate in December 2001 approved legalization of possession and production for personal use, as well as a limited trade in the herb. Under the Senate proposal, importing or exporting marijuana would remain illegal, as would advertising.

But now, with marijuana legalization on the verge of actually happening, opponents are mobilizing, according to reports from Swiss Radio International. Since year's end, the country's German-language media has been filled with reports warning of the psychological danger of marijuana use. The articles are part of an orchestrated campaign against legalization, said Christine Goll, vice-president of the parliamentary commission for health and social security, which is reviewing the legislation.

"These campaigners are hoping to influence the parliamentarians," she told Swiss Radio International, adding that the commission has received numerous letters that appear to be part of a coordinated campaign.

Opponents have gained support from the Swiss-German teachers' union, which in late January issued a statement criticizing legalization. "Unlike alcohol, cannabis has a direct and epidemic influence on school life," said the missive, adding that it did not want school to become "a therapy center, where people come to sober up or to catch up on their sleep."

The Swiss-French teachers' union also joined the anti campaign, asking, "Do we want a society full of dopey people, who take less and less responsibility for their actions?"

But with the Swiss government, the Swiss Senate, and the Swiss Institute for Drug and Alcohol prevention all supporting legalization, it appears that the opposition is too little too late. "It is a last-ditch attempt by a few diehards; the battle is already lost," said parliamentary commission member Yves Guisan. "Most importantly, the commission has not changed its stance on decriminalization."

Visit for information on anti-prohibition efforts in Switzerland.

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