Politics does not want legalization - the dealers are happy!

In 2007, politicians will be debating our stimulant again and again: The partial revision of NarcA is becoming more concrete, and the hemp initiative is beginning its hurdle race. What are the hopes? What is our attitude to the political efforts?

The treatment of the partial revision in the National Council

On December 13, 14 and 20, 2006, the National Council dealt with the partial revision of NarcA. It was a dull discussion for long stretches: A whole bunch of motions from the far right (especially from Waber, EDU and Ruey, LP) wanted to tighten up the commission's proposal - their mantra was “complete drug renunciation” and “more repression”. But they didn't stand a chance. At first they wanted to postpone the whole business, but the National Council did not go for it. In the introductory debate, the parties presented their familiar opinions. Jacqueline Fehr (SP) now wants to finally bring the “undisputed” elements of the old revision under roof - cannabis is to be left out. This topic is to be dealt with in the context of the hemp initiative. The CVP welcomes the partial revision, but makes it clear that it is still in favor of the punishability of drug use. And also for the punishability of cannabis use. Christian Waber (EDU) still thinks “the best prescription is: hands off drugs”. But he can agree with the medical use of THC products: “I believe that the side effects can't be much worse than those of other pharmaceutical drugs.” After all! Franziska Teuscher (Greens) wants the four-pillar policy, but thinks that repression takes up too much resources. The Greens are also the only ones in the debate who clearly believe that the “consumption of narcotics must be exempt from punishment.” Silvia Schenker (SP) represents the modern attitude of addiction experts, who see less the substances (whether legal or illegal) as the main problem, but would like to address the type of consumption and the individual danger: There is pleasurable use of all psychoactive substances, and there is also problematic use. Felix Gutzwiller (FDP) now finally wants to pass this bill. In the detailed deliberations, all the proposals put forward by the right-wing minority were defeated by around 90 to 110 votes to 50 to 70 in each case.

The penalty ranges are normalized

However, the Federal Council was able to assert itself a few times. In its statement, it had pointed out various massive increases in penalties and was now able to reduce these penalties back to today's “normal” level. The range of punishment for production, distribution and sale is now up to three years in prison again, instead of the original twenty years (in the case of a serious case, however, these twenty years are still possible, as before). Also, in the case of transfer to a person under the age of 18, the penalty range has been set at three years, instead of the twenty years previously proposed. This prevented a massive tightening of the law.

The only really viable proposal is shot down

There was one small ray of hope: The Green Daniel Vischer proposed that the consumption of all narcotics should be exempt from punishment. This would have meant that preparatory acts would still be punishable, but it would have been a start towards decriminalization. But the result of the vote was devastating: only 36 members of the National Council supported Vischer, 122 voted against. Thus, it was not only a small ray of hope, but also a very short one. In the final vote, the National Council passed the deal by a relatively comfortable 108 votes to 65 (with 16 abstentions). Subsequently, Waber announced a referendum if the Council of States should also approve this bill.

Now the bill goes to the Council of States

The commission of the Council of States wanted to debate this bill on February 15, 2007, but could not finish the discussions yet. Thus, the Council of States cannot deal with the partial revision of NarcA in the spring session.

Our position on the partial revision

Should we now be for or against this law? It does not bring any big changes for THC users: THC consumption remains punishable, weed and hash remain illegal narcotics. A positive aspect is certainly the possibility of using THC products as medication for illnesses. However, this new possibility is to be handled very restrictively, so that only a few people are likely to benefit from it. Negative is the complete illegalization of hemp cultivation. However, since this has already been made impossible in the vast majority of cases (because very few indications are sufficient for the detection of “hemp weed for the production of narcotics” and allow a seizure and conviction), not much will change for us. So it simply doesn't really matter. I probably would have voted blank on the final vote, as two representatives of the Green Party did.

On the situation of the hemp initiative

The Federal Council's message has been available since mid-December 2006. It gives a good overview of the state of official opinion on the subject of THC and politics and can be downloaded in full at www.bag.admin.ch/themen/drogen/00042/index.html?lang=de on the page at the very bottom right (Downloads). “Although the hemp initiative contains demands that correspond in essential parts to the previous position of the Federal Council on the cannabis issue, the Federal Council recommends the rejection of the initiative.” This is the central sentence of the message - somehow completely absurd, but also a precise summary of the political situation regarding THC consumption in Switzerland today. On February 22, 2007, the commission of the National Council agreed with the opinion of the Federal Council: No to the initiative and no willingness to work out a counter-proposal with a mini-variant. This has greatly increased the likelihood that the committee of the Council of States will not consider a minimal improvement either. Thus, it becomes apparent that a mini-decriminalization will only be possible in the long run, in five to ten years. Because the hemp initiative would be a theoretical possibility to change the situation, but an adoption is unimaginable under today's conditions. But it is very important that the initiative achieves as good a result as possible, that is, many yes votes. Everyone must give this concrete consideration.

On the political situation

From a technical point of view, it is clear that the ban is untenable and that a change towards legalization is needed. But politically, there is no majority for such a change. The topic is so emotionally charged that no movement can develop. It is true that many people realize that it is not fair to prohibit THC consumption through criminal law. But no one, especially no politician, wants to be seen as a “drug promoter”. Because you don't win elections with a positive attitude towards legalization, and this is especially true for the CVP. This party should move, but it has nothing to gain from doing so (and that's what it's all about, not about factually correct policies). At the same time, such circles consciously accept to promote illegal drug trafficking and to enable mafia structures to make profits, as well as to unjustly prosecute THC users with the criminal law. This behavior is the scandal, not the THC consumption.

Why can't a majority be found for decriminalization?

The biggest problem is that there are no relevant political forces that see THC use as something positive. From left to right, this behavior is seen as something negative. The left and liberal commoners see consumption primarily as self-harming behavior and generally do not want to criminalize such behavior. The center perceives THC use as indecent, immoral. The penalties do not have to be high, but there needs to be a signal for these people that consumption is undesirable. For example, fines for consumption. The right despises THC users (at best) or hates them (at worst). In these circles, compulsory treatment also seems to be within the realm of the imaginable.

The perception of the positive sides is missing

We see the positive sides of THC use, but we are not a relevant political force. For us, there is the healthy, beautiful, life-enriching, enjoyable, individual-advancing THC use. It is an exceedingly positive part of the lifestyle of many people for whom THC products are miraculous and blissful agents. Or creativity-enhancing agents, sleep aids, antidepressants, emotional enhancers, or sedatives. The spectrum of the effects is very large and also contradictory; it depends with the THC effect strongly on the person, its condition and mood, as well as the consumption kind. But neither politics nor the population perceive this positive part.

A comparison with sexuality

Let's compare the topic of THC with another emotionally highly charged topic: sexuality. There are undeniably even more terrible consequences than with THC use: unwanted pregnancies, abortions, STDs, violent assaults - a whole bunch of horrible things that no one considers “good. But to ban sexuality as a whole would be absurd for the vast majority of people. For very many people have the concrete experience that sexuality is primarily simply something beautiful. The vast majority of THC users have such a positive experience, but not the majority of the population. They only see the alcoholized and stoned youths; the doctors and authorities only see people with many problems who also consume THC. And everything is then somehow thrown into the stoner pot - the beautiful, unproblematic THC enjoyment remains invisible.

The image is miserable - there is a need for action here

THC consumption thus has a miserable image. This is the main problem: THC consumption is always viewed by the media and politicians only from the negative, problematic aspects. And on the other hand, there are hardly any people who stand up in public and explain why THC consumption is a great enrichment of their lives. A change in image is only conceivable if a large number of serious THC users stand up for their substance in public and can paint a positive picture of themselves and their hobby. This raises the question: How can we build such a movement?

The left is in favor, the right is against, the FDP is split and the CVP remains in the no position. This means that there is currently no majority even for a small solution. This was also shown by the discussion in the committee of the National Council: With 11 votes against 10 and three abstentions, it rejected a counter-proposal by the narrowest of margins - which means that even a mini-solution is a long way off.


The steps around the hemp initiative

- Initiative submitted 01/06

- Federal Council rejects initiative, no counterproposal 12/06

- Commission of the National Council rejects initiative, no counter-proposal is prepared 02/06

- National Council discussion pending

- Commission of the Council of States discussing, possible counter-proposal? open

- Council of States discusses open

- Final vote open

- Referendum on initiative (and possible counter-proposal?) open

- Initiative will certainly be rejected, but with what proportion of votes?

The steps of the NarcA-partial revision

- Commission of the National Council launches commission initiative 02/05

- Commission of the Council of States gives green light 05/05

- National Council adopts commission initiative with amendments 12/06

- Commission of the Council of States discusses the matter pending

- Council of States openly discusses

- Differences NR/SR open

- Final vote open

(This makes the text of the law final).

- Referendum is likely

- Referendum open

- Entry into force open

Last modified: 2024/03/27 08:56

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