Switzerland has decriminalized marijuana possession. The new law, which took effect October 1, changes the penalties for possession of up to 10 grams of pot. Previously, those caught with any amount of cannabis in Switzerland faced legal proceedings that could result in a permanent criminal record. Under the new law, adults over the age of 18 who are in possession of marijuana can simply pay a fine of 100 Swiss Francs (roughly $110) and get on with their day.
Pot decriminalization was the subject of a lengthy debate in the Swiss parliament. The move to make possession a minor misdemeanor is expected to unify pot policy across the country – previously drug laws had been enforced inconsistently from region to region. It will also offer relief to the court system, which on average heard 30,000 marijuana possession-related cases annually. This in turn will save the government money and free police to focus on more serious crimes.
Switzerland joins a number of European countries with decrim laws on the books, including Portugal, Belgium, the Czech Republic and Holland. However, Swiss decrim came as a bit of a surprise to some observers. Just five years ago voters rejected a legalization initiative from the government and in the mid 2000’s parliament refused to even consider decriminalization.
Despite decriminalizing pot possession, growing and selling cannabis is still strictly forbidden in Switzerland.