Sort of legal: the small amount of cannabis


The non-punishable minor quantity
Narcotics Act NarcA, SR 812.121, Article 19b, paragraphs 1 and 2, in PDF (2023) on page 19.
Confiscation not allowed
Report of the Committee for Social Security and Health of the National Council on 04.439 (OB procedure), 2.9.11, ⇒ PDF, page 16 (original page 8210)
Federal court decision
Finally there is a federal court decision on this: A minor amount may not be confiscated! So we were right with our assessment.


We call it sort of legal, because everyone is allowed to possess up to 10 grams of THC-containing products for personal consumption without punishment, but just: One may not have consumed them yet, in any case not officially observed / on record / provable, since the consumption is always punishable.


Anyone who is stopped by the police, does not consume and has less than 10 grams with them, should not answer questions about previous consumption or deny it (lie). Because as soon as someone confesses to even one joint from the past, the police must initiate the proper procedure.


Those who do not consume (have), but possess up to 10 grams for their own consumption, cannot be punished according to the law. However, as soon as there is a reasonable suspicion that consumption has taken place after all or that more than 10 grams are involved, normal proceedings can be initiated.

Sort of legal: the small amount of cannabis

An old provision...

Since the existence of NarcA, there is a whimsical wording in all the prohibitions, penalties and all the illegality: the article 19b. This states the following: Despite the basic punishability of handling products containing at least 1.0% THC, anyone who prepares only a small amount for their own consumption is not liable to prosecution. Also the delivery for simultaneous, gratuitous consumption among adults is exempt from punishment in this context.

...was also clarified in grams

Since October 2013, this penalty-free minor amount for hemp has been clearly defined by law throughout Switzerland: 10 grams of “narcotics of the effect type cannabis” (this is the name of our good herb in NarcA) are considered a minor amount. By the way, the THC content can be as high as desired.

A part of the fixed penalty bill

This gram limit was introduced together with the fixed penalty bill in order to be able to implement fixed penalties for cannabis consumption even in the case of possession of a small amount. But this provision has a life of its own: Anyone who possesses less than 10 grams for personal use and has not yet consumed it is not liable to prosecution at all and thus, according to the law, cannot be punished. This applies only as long as someone is not consuming (that would usually result in a fixed penalty) and also has not yet consumed (that would result in a report with a fine and fees).

The sort-of-legality...

In a nutshell, anyone who possesses up to 10 grams intended for personal consumption, but has not yet smoked any of it, remains unpunished. And the piece of hash, the little bag of weed? This is probably the funniest part: it may not be confiscated. Unfortunately, this is not stated in the law, but it is derived from the exemption from punishment. In the explanations to this legal provision, it says: “A minor amount of cannabis that the offender only carries with him or her cannot be confiscated, as the possession of minor amounts of a narcotic (…) is exempt from punishment.” Thus, 10 grams of cannabis is sort of legal. not applied

However, no police force adhered to this actually clear regulation. In Zurich, the police order even stated that in such cases (possession of less than 10 grams without consumption) a fixed penalty had to be issued.

Other police forces tried to establish further illegal activities through questioning (for example, consumption in the past), so that they could report the persons concerned.

Although the legal provisions apply to the whole of Switzerland, there is still enormous scope for the cantonal and municipal police forces in their day-to-day implementation.

To make an objection or not?

Those who received a fixed penalty over 100 francs for possession of a few grams of cannabis generally did not fight back: the effort for the legal fight seemed too great for most. Even those who received a report and a fine often shied away from the effort (and the possible higher costs if they lost in court).

A first judicial clarification

But some wanted to know exactly and did not pay the fixed penalty, demanded the ordinary procedure, were fined normally with a summary penalty order and objected to it. Finally, one such case reached the Zurich District Court. In September 2015, the court ruled that the possession of an unpunished quantity really cannot be punished and acquitted the person concerned.

However, the court did not confirm the non-confiscability. After all, the seized hemp should have been used for the preparation of an illegal act (the punishable consumption). Therefore, the material would not be released again.

However, the police in Zurich did not want to change their practice. Even this clear verdict was not enough for them: one would have to wait for a verdict of the higher court.

The Federal Court sees it the same way

But before this happened, a Federal Court ruling from September 2017 brought clarity, which stemmed from a Basel case: ⇒ BGE 6B_1273/2016 of 6.9.2017.

In it, the Federal Supreme Court unequivocally stated that unpunished really means unpunished and that no criminal proceedings should actually have been initiated. The costs of the proceedings may also not be passed on. Unfortunately, it left the question of confiscation open. Further appeals were needed to clarify this.

By the way, possession without punishment also applies to juveniles. This required another ruling by the Federal Supreme Court (July 2019), because the Chief Juvenile Prosecutor's Office (Canton of Zurich) simply did not want to recognize this clear fact.

Finally, a federal court ruling was required for non-confiscation (June 2023): The cannabis carried (up to 10 grams) may not be confiscated either. Text of the federal court decision (in German)

And the "easy case"?

But the Federal Supreme Court gave another hint in its ruling: The (punishable) consumption of small amounts was to be taken under the “light case”. A warning would therefore suffice - or the proceedings could be dropped altogether. But the law enforcement agencies do not want to know anything about that (yet?).

The previous handling of the minor amount

A strange police stop at the end of 2018: charge of possession of "hard drugs"

Summary of the situation at the end of 2017: the worst seems to be cleared up. The article The minor amount of hemp: Does unpunished mean unpunished? summarizes various rulings on the minor quantity.

Mostly, the immunity from punishment of the minor amount was ignored. There were at least three variants of how the police proceeded in such cases. For details, see the article Introducing fixed penalties and dealing with the minor quantity from summer 2015.

Updates on the de minimis quantity



Form for the small amount of cannabis from Ticino

This is the first police report form that we know of that is entirely dedicated to “possession of cannabis up to 10 grams without penalty” (both examples are from 2020):

formular_germenge_ti_2020.jpg straffreiemengeti2020.jpg



Fall 2017

Fall 2016

Examples of discontinuation orders for minor quantities

Discontinuation order Baselland

Example of a discontinuation order due to a minor quantity. Here the whole argumentation is summarized again nicely:

Hiring order Baselland, page 1 Cessation order Baselland, page 2

Discontinuation order from the Hinwil governor's office

First, there was a fine for possession of an unpunished minor amount of cannabis. Only after an appeal and a interrogation the authority followed the law and stopped the proceedings.

Discontinuation order Hinwi governor's office, page 1 Discontinuation order of the Hinwi governor's office, page 2

Discontinuation order by the Bülach governor's office

Consumption was not proven, possession of hash and weed was clear – but in a minor amount. The Bülach governor's office discontinued the proceedings:

Discontinuation order Statthalteramt Bülach ZH

Discontinuation order Ticino

Possession of less than 10 grams of weed or hash for personal use is not punishable. Therefore, there was a discontinuation order.

geringfuegigemengetessin2018a.jpg geringfuegigemengetessin2018b.jpg

Court rulings on the de minimis quantity

Federal Court: Small amount cannot be confiscated! (2023)

The Federal Court's media release today is clear: anyone who acquires and possesses 10 grams of cannabis for their own consumption is not only exempt from punishment, but can also keep this amount. The police may not confiscate it (unless they also observe the consumption, in which case they may seize the material and issue a fixed penalty for 100 francs ). We will now analyze the exact text of the verdict. Afterwards, we will follow whether all cantons and also the customs will adhere to this Federal Court ruling and change their practice.

Since 2013 we have written this again and again, since the 9th edition of our legal aid brochure Shit happens. After four years the Federal Court made clear: a not punishable quantity cannot be punished. Now it is clear: this quantity cannot be confiscated either. It is a great satisfaction to be confirmed by the Federal Court after ten years!

Text of the federal court decision (in German)

Does the de minimis amount apply to juveniles? (2018/2019)

In July 2019, the Federal Court has now decided this case: The exemption from punishment of the minor amount of cannabis for own consumption also applies to adolescents. In this ruling, the Federal Supreme Court fully confirms its position of 2017:

The Federal Court provides even more clarity (2017)

A first judicial clarification (2015)

In September 2015, the District Court of Zurich judged a case involving a minor amount of cannabis and acquitted the person concerned. It took the court 13 pages to really appreciate an act that, according to the law, was exempt from punishment. But at least the court managed to do what the police and the city magistrate's office just won't grasp.
Here follows the facsimile of the verdict, which also clarifies that consumption is mandatory for a cannabis fixed penalty. So the court agrees with our interpretation of the law. Only the non-recoverability is not considered by the court, which contradicts the explanatory text of the Commission.

Judgment of the District Court of Zurich dated 10.9.2015 - minor quantity
Judgment: minor amount, page 1
Judgment: de minimis, page 2 Judgment: de minimis amount, page 3 Judgment: de minimis amount, page 4
Item 4.4 - Cannabis for
own consumption
Judgment: minor amount, page 5 Judgment: de minimis amount, page 6 Judgment: de minimis amount, page 7
Point 4.9 - General impunity
for possession up to 10 grams of cannabis
Item 4.10 - fines only
for consumption, not for possession
Cannabis must still be
be confiscated
Judgment: de minimis amount, page 8 Judgment: de minimis amount, page 9 Judgment: de minimis amount, page 10
The acquittal
Judgment: de minimis amount, page 11 Judgment: de minimis amount, page 12 Judgment: de minimis amount, page 13


Last modified: 2024/03/27 08:56

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Legal overview

Shit happens 15 (Summer 2023)

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