Little illegal: consumption detected by the police


Regulatory fine
Regulatory fines Act (OBG), SR 314.1, Art. 2: Cantons determine the authority, Art. 3: Offence itself determined, Art. 4: Minimum 18 years of age
Ordinance on regulatory fines (OBV), SR 314.11, Annex 2/Fine List 2, Chapter VIII, Item 8001: Unauthorized consumption of narcotics of the effect type cannabis (Art. 19a No. 1 NarcA) ⇒ 100 francs. In the PDF (2023) on page 32
Light case
Narcotics Act NarcA, SR 812.121, Article 19a, Paragraph 2, in PDF (2023) on page 19.


The regulatory fine can only be issued if the police authority has been authorized by the canton to do so, the police have determined the consumption themselves, less than 10 grams of cannabis are involved, no other crimes have been committed and the person is an adult.


It is best to never walk around with more than 10 grams. If someone smokes a joint in public and is caught by the police, they should only admit to that joint and refuse to answer questions about further consumption or lie, otherwise due process will kick in.


100 francs is the tariff for smoking pot when detected by the police. This amount is valid for the whole of Switzerland. No fees will be charged and in case of repetition there will be no increase. Any material and the joint are usually confiscated and destroyed.

Little illegal: consumption detected by the police

Inaccurate media information

Headlines such as “Wer kifft, zahlt 100 Stutz” (Blick), “100 Franken für Cannabiskonsum” (NZZ), “Busse für Kiffer soll 100 Franken betragen” (Tagi) suggested at the introduction in 2013 that generally only a regulatory fine is to be feared if someone smokes pot. The limit of 10 grams was frequently mentioned, but rarely that this amount is exempt from punishment.

That's when it didn't really become clear what the issue was. It's not about smoking pot in general, that is and remains a contravention, which has to be dealt with in due process (police questioning, protocol, report; then another body issues a fine with fees, in case of repetition this becomes higher, see here).

Only for consumption detected by the police

The provisions on regulatory fines only apply to consumption determined by the police themselves. Specifically, the smoking of a joint in public, possibly on a visible balcony or in the garden. If the police have determined this consumption themselves and do not find more than 10 grams during the search of the smokers (according to the law, these are not punishable, quasi legal), then they can punish this consumption themselves directly with a regulatory fine (OB) of 100 francs.

Limited applicability

However, this only applies to adults (juveniles must still be reported “normally”) and as long as no other illegal acts have been committed.

Thus, the regulatory fines are only relevant for a small part of the possible illegal acts around THC. But if someone falls into this category, then a regulatory fine à 100 francs is still an impertinence, but clearly better than a report with a fine and fees of 200 to 1'000 francs.

Cantonal differences

The canton of Bern did not take advantage of this option to simplify the prosecution of consumers and preferred to continue to prosecute (only 196 regulatory fines in 2017), while the canton of Zurich made active use of this tool (3,053 regulatory fine in the same year). These are stark differences in implementation. Incidentally, a total of 18,146 cannabis regulatory fines were issued throughout Switzerland in 2017 (both for detected consumption and for possession of a minor quantity without consumption).

Collapse of the regulatory fines

After the Federal Court confirmed the impunity of possession of a minor amount, police forces could no longer issue OB for it. Therefore, the number of OB has decreased massively from 2018 (see statistics). 2016 was the peak with 19'766 issued OB, in 2020 it was only 4'013. So tens of thousands were wrongly fined before!

Are there any other suspicious facts?

The police can still decide that in a specific case there is more to it than just the joint and the piece of hash and that further clarifications “must” be made. In this way, such cases can also lead to ordinary proceedings.

Because, as it says in a presentation of the Zurich city police: “The regulatory fine procedure is excluded (…) if at the same time other violations against the NarcA (…) are present, which cannot be punished in the regulatory fine procedure (e.g. continuous consumption).”

One thing is certain: anyone who honestly tells the police about past consumption can and will very well be reported.

Regulatory fine as an optional provision

We cannot recognize a legal claim to punishment with a regulatory fine. However, the opposite is possible; everyone is allowed to say: “No, I don't want a regulatory fine from the police, but to be reported in the normal procedure”. In this way, those affected can also drag the whole thing on through the instances. However, this rarely brings anything, because the costs increase enormously.

The cantons must implement them

Although the provisions on regulatory fines are laid down in the nationwide law and ordinance on regulatory fines, the cantons must implement prosecution in concrete terms, which means that cantonal provisions are also required. Only these cantonal decisions authorize certain police bodies to issue regulatory fines. For example, the Valais municipal police did not have this authority for the first few years and thus issued notices as before, while the Valais cantonal police already issued regulatory fine.

In the canton of Bern, only uniformed police officers may issue regulatory fines, while in many other cantons all members of an authorized authority may do so.

And the "easy case"?

In “light cases”, the NarcA allows to stop the procedure or to end it with a warning, i.e. without any penalty. This provision could be applied by the authorities, but unfortunately they do so very rarely.

This would be exactly the right approach: for reasons of the rule of law and on the basis of constitutional personal liberties, the authorities should apply this provision of the NarcA widely. But this has not (yet?) reached the police, the municipal judges' offices, the governors' offices and the public prosecutors' offices!

Development of cannabis regulatory fines

Examples of regulatory fines

From Ticino 2021

This is the first time the new number for cannabis regulatory fines is listed: 8001.

From Zurich 2014

obzhvorne.jpg obzhhinten.jpg

From Ticino 2014


Regulatory fines in the media (as of Oct. 2013)


Last modified: 2023/12/22 21:16

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