Spring 2009: A review of the hemp initiative

Now the vote is a quarter of a year behind us. From a certain distance, we look back, summarize and ask ourselves what the implications for the future might be. Here is an analysis of the hemp initiative.

We have lost

No matter how you look at it, the hemp initiative was rejected. The positive points are quickly listed:

The positive points

  • Zurich is the only city to adopt the initiative. With 54.4% and 10,000 votes in the plus, another drug policy signal comes from the largest city in Switzerland.
  • Hemp is far more accepted by the population than other illegal substances. The comparison with the 1998 vote on “sensible drug policy”, which wanted to legalize other substances, was won by 10.8 percentage points.
  • No tiny minority voted yes, but 37% or even more than 850,000 people. This also means that the issue is not off the table.
  • The forecast was initially much lower. 37% yes votes are too many to allow repression to continue as before.
  • NZZ, Basler Zeitung: These two print media provided factual and also well-founded information about the initiative.

The negative points

  • Geneva, Bern and Basel: These major Swiss cities all rejected the initiative. It was a close call for Basel and Bern, but it would have been possible to pass the initiative.
  • Western Switzerland and Ticino dropped off sharply. Above all, western Switzerland, with a minus 9% yes-vote difference to German-speaking Switzerland, was completely disappointing. Unfortunately, I did not follow the media and politics of Western Switzerland. But the result clearly shows that smoking pot is not socially accepted in this region.
  • The opponents' arguments were characterized by irrelevance and hysteria. They were not above involving sects and right-wing extremists.
  • Drug prevention agencies were primarily concerned with the Narcotics Act. To work intensively for the legalization of cannabis seems to be a political no-go for these organizations. It is true that most of these agencies have indicated that putting alcohol and cannabis on an equal footing would be beneficial to their work. But this was done so discreetly that it is not surprising that the initiative did not stand a chance.
  • Youth associations, teachers' association rejected the initiative unanimously and with media attention. As if cannabis was the only drug and the most dangerous one. It is surprising that these associations did not take all the findings into account. The associations believed they had to take responsibility and pilloried hemp in particular. They did not consider that this would propagate the harmlessness of cocaine and alcohol in relation to cannabis. The mental approach of these associations is probably abstinence. As said a wishful thinking…
  • Tages-Anzeiger, 20-Minuten, Blick, SF DRS: With minor exceptions, these media provided hardly any information and some of it was tendentiously lurid. In the Arena, there was only a half-time debate at a modest level.
  • The SVP and CVP have joined forces in this debate. The SVP has once again arbitrarily discarded all its liberal approaches. The CVP has presented itself as a conservative party.
  • Abstinence has become socially acceptable again, although only a minority can actually live this way.

Missing information

Unfortunately, data on demographics is missing for this vote. One can assume that older people voted no more often and younger people voted yes more often. In this respect, this information would be exciting to see when Switzerland would be ripe for a repeat of the initiative.

The prospects

The Teachers' Association, Pro Juventute and the Swiss Working Group of Youth Associations are launching an fixed penalties for adult smokers. At least this is an improvement of the current legal situation, but even here the resistance of the hardliners will be unbroken. So one can assume that until this still disproportionate legal status for adult smokers is enforced, a lot of water will flow down the Rhine.

A conclusion

Legalization for adult cannabis users is politically blocked for years, probably decades. Politicians, police and judiciary have all the means to prosecute and punish any THC-inhaling adult and always get it right. The stigma of smoking pot is omnipresent, no matter how else you live your life. Smoking a joint is and remains a criminal act. If you're caught more than once, you'll get a hefty fine (even if it's just one joint each time), a criminal record (even if you've only given away one joint), and problems with the DMV (even if you never drive stoned). Social exclusion is guaranteed. Repression cannot pursue everything, but when it strikes, the consequences are immense. Prevention work, as anchored in the narcotics law, is only a nice word in relation to cannabis - repression is the biggest problem here.

A speculation

Young new drug users will either continue to try the legal route via alcohol, or they will check out the illegal market. Those familiar with the scene know that cocaine is cheaper and easier to obtain in Zurich than hash. If one continues to think about the media's adoration of this hip powder drug, it is clear what Switzerland can expect.

For the right to enjoy THC

Our association with its members knows about the product cannabis. Even the most outrageous propaganda, the worst image, the thickest lies and all the so-called scientific analyses cannot dissuade us THC-users from enjoying it. However, we still have to live with the fact that we are socially defined as inferior people as a result of this life-affirming, transcendent pleasure.

The discrimination continues We are back somewhere in the evil past of discrimination. The stoner is an enemy image, as there have been and are many. We are persecuted as gays and lesbians used to be persecuted for their lifestyle. Of course, there are groups that are treated even more harshly and have to suffer more. But we also belong to those who are allowed to be beaten up. For many just: The scum of society. Wherever human rights were realized and protected, we stoners have none in relation to THC. Even the federal court doesn't want to change that.

Because they do not know what they are missing

Consolation of our attitude is: Foolish not to savor, try and experience the gift of human life, the incredible quality of the human brain. There may be other effective methods for such experiences, but THC enjoyment remains one of the simplest and least dangerous ways to experience consciousness as a human being. To prohibit THC is as if music were not allowed - an imposition.

The hemp initiative in the vote

The results in the districts of Switzerland are quite different: There are yes shares between 54.40 and 23.23 percent. The average for Switzerland as a whole is 36.81 percent. In total, there were 848,470 yes votes and 1,456,336 no votes.

The following figures are the provisional official voting results, with a correction for the district of Saanen, where the Yes and No votes were reversed.

The best results in the districts

ZH Zurich 54.40% Yes
BE Saanen 49.30% Yes
BE Bern 46.27% Yes
SG Sarganserland 45.54% Yes
BS Basel City 44.73% Yes
SO Solothurn 44.29% Yes
BE Biel 44.10% Yes
SH Schaffhausen 43.45% Yes
ZH Horgen 41.77% Yes
GR Plessur 41.57% Yes
ZH Affoltern 41.32% Yes
ZH Dietikon 40.85% Yes
ZH Winterthur 40.77% Yes
LU Lucerne 40.31% Yes
BE Vorderland 40.28% Yes
BE Schwarzenburg 40.25% Yes
GR Imboden 40.18% Yes
ZH Uster 40.17% Yes
BE Bucheggberg 40.08% Yes
AR Wasseramt 40.03% Yes
GR Hinterrhein 39.82% Yes
SG St. Gallen 39.44% Yes
ZH Miles 39.38% Yes
GR Moesa 39.15% Yes
SG Werdenberg 39.01% Yes
ZH Bülach 38.93% Yes
BE Büren 38.87% Yes

The worst results in the districts

VS Entremont 23.23% Yes
VS Martigny 23.92% Yes
VD Gros-de-Vaud 24.51% Yes
FR La Gruyère 24.65% Yes
NE Val-de-Travers 24.71% Yes
VD Lavaux-Oron 25.02% Yes
VD Broye-Vully 25.11% Yes
LU Entlebuch 25.41% Yes
VD Morges 25.59% Yes
NE Val-de-Ruz 25.95% Yes
FR La Glâne 25.98% Yes
VS Conthey 26.12% Yes
VS Sion 26.12% Yes
VS Hérens 26.23% Yes
BE Frutigen 26.42% Yes
NE Boudry 26.73% Yes
VS Saint-Maurice 26.98% Yes
VS Monthey 27.03% Yes
VD Aigle 27.31% Yes
BE Moutier 27.39% Yes
VD Jura-Nord vaudois 27.62% Yes
VD La Broye 27.75% Yes
TI Leventina 27.80% Yes
VD Nyon 27.90% Yes
VD Riviera-Pays-d'Enhaut 28.42% Yes
FR La Veveyse 28.42% Yes
NE Le Locle 29.21% Yes

The results by cantons

All cantons rejected the hemp initiative. The canton of Zurich was the only one to achieve more than 40% yes votes (43.3%). Almost all other cantons ranged between 30 and 40% yes votes. Valais, Vaud and Neuchâtel did not even manage that and were below 30% yes votes, with Neuchâtel achieving the worst cantonal result with 28.5%.

Where should we start?

For future political work, we have to ask ourselves where we can start. Western Switzerland is a tough place, as the above list of the worst districts clearly shows. Even in conservative religiously influenced districts we will hardly have a chance. To win a vote on THC you need clear majorities in the cities and their environs, and slim majorities in the rest of the German-speaking midlands. In this way, it might be possible to achieve both the popular vote and the majority of the cantons. We still have to analyze and discuss how the necessary additional 20 percent can be changed so that we can get from the current 37 percent to the target of over 55 percent yes. It can only happen with a clear (rather consumption than trade), clear (personal use for adults ok, distribution forbidden) and well communicated proposal.

Last modified: 2024/03/27 08:56

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