Switzerland voting on marijuana decriminalization and heroin prescription today

Several readers have passed on the information about Switzerland, and with the holidays, I haven’t gotten around to posting about it until now.
Marijuana Smokers in Switzerland Pin Hopes on Support of Voters

The ‹Hemp InitiativeŠ would free the Swiss to use and grow cannabis for their own use, putting the country on a par with the Netherlands, which has the most liberal drug laws in Europe. Switzerland‰s ruling coalition parties are split over the plan, with opponents including the Swiss People‰s Party fearing such a law would spark cannabis tourism. About half of the country‰s voters oppose the proposal.

Naturally, the opponents are using the fear tactic:

Backed by the Free Democrats and the Social Democrats, two of the ruling parties, the initiative‰s supporters have been handing out free copies of the ‹Hemp JournalŠ on the streets of Zurich and Bern. Opponents are countering with a newspaper campaign featuring a syringe, a joint and a call for voters to keep their ‹hands offŠ drugs.

A syringe?

So far, those tactics are winning out. A minority of the 1,209 voters, 38 percent, surveyed by the Bern-based GfS research institute between Nov. 10-16 back the ‹Hemp Initiative,Š with some 50 percent opposing the proposal.

A reader from Switzerland writes:

This is not the first time the issue of cannabis legalization has been on the table, and it certainly wouldn’t surprise me if it’s rejected once again. Sadly, many people in favor of legalization will not cast their vote, even if they could vote by mail and there is no need to register or similar things. The ballot paper is automatically sent to all Swiss over 18 and in some regions, you even get a pre-paid envelope for sending it back! As everywhere else, the young are lazy and uninterested..

While the marijuana initiative seems likely to fail, another one is expected to pass: giving away heroin for free.
Well, actually, it’s a vote on putting a heroin distribution program on a permanent legal footing.

Patients show up each day to receive their treatment in small doses handed through a small window.
Then they gather around a table to shoot up, part of a pioneering Swiss program to curb drug abuse by providing addicts a clean, safe place to take heroin produced by a government-approved laboratory.

This is a powerful program that works, and so naturally the U.S. and U.N. has roundly condemned it.

Crimes committed by heroin addicts have dropped 60 percent since the program began in 1994, according to the Federal Office of Public Health says.
And, Zullino said, patients reduce consumption of other narcotics once they start the heroin program and suffer less from psychiatric disorders.
But, he added, “the idea has never been to liberalize heroin. It’s considered a medicine and used as such.”

Best of luck to Swiss voters today.

[Thanks Antonio, Tom, Mats]

Update: Early voting results are showing up as expected. The heroin program is winning easily at 69 percent, and the cannabis initiative is going down to heavy defeat.

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