Almost a year ago, in September 2003, the French-speaking Swiss Committee Against the Revision of the Narcotics Act distributed 8,000 copies of a booklet entitled Echec au lobby de la drogue (The drug lobby in check) and participated in the drafting of a German booklet entitled Stopp der Drogenlobby (Stop the drug lobby). Today, the lobby for the liberalisation of all drugs has been checkmated.
Highly toxic product
On 14 June, the National Council (Lower House of the Swiss Parliament) by 102 votes to 92 and with 2 abstentions, indeed reduced to smithereens the Dreifuss-Couchepin Bill which aimed not only to depenalise the consumption of and petty trafficking in cannabis, but also to tolerate the production and wholesale trading in this drug, to limit the obligation to prosecute the consumption of all other narcotics, to delete heroin from the list of prohibited substances and to make the prescription of this opiate a recognised therapy and thus refundable by health insurance, to make “survival assistance” a legal practice and thus to impose injection premises for the consumption of illicit narcotics on those cantons which do not want them, along with a considerable reinforcement of the driving role of the Confederation in the drug policy. At the first reading on 25 September 2003, the Lower House had already refused to examine the villainous Bill by 96 votes to 89.
“According to the Government, the revision suggested is compatible with the International Conventions on narcotics”, Christiane Imsand, a Parliamentary correspondent still insisted, in seven French-Swiss daily newspapers on 14 June. Pow! The Liberal National Counsellor, Claude Ruey, in the plenary, provided the proof that Mr. Couchepin had hidden the truth from the Swiss people. He read out a letter addressed to the Federal Council on 16 June 2003 by the Chairman of the custodian institution of the International Conventions: “If the bill were to be adopted in its current form, the situation in Switzerland would be such that the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) would have no choice but to envisage taking measures against this country as provided for in article 14 of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, which considers the adoption of retaliatory measures. Just for good measure, the Liberal National Counsellor quotes an interview by the educationalist Pierre Rey accusing Mrs. Dreifuss of also having lied when she stated that cannabis was no more dangerous than alcohol and cigarettes: “Mrs. Dreifuss is quite simply lying, because she knows perfectly well that other experts, just as respectable as hers, say the opposite. She should at least have the objectivity to recognise that she is quoting only one point of view”. That is precisely what occurred in the Health Commission on 1st April last.
When invited to comment on his own defeat in the NZZ am Sonntag, Dr. Thomas Zeltner, Director of the Federal Office of Public Health and holder of a prize from an American foundation seeking the legalisation of all drugs, explained that the wind began to turn last Autumn, when “certain circles started featuring new studies all of which stressed the danger of cannabis, thus causing quite a media stir and starting to make many Members of Parliament feel unsure of themselves”.
The fact of the matter is that, as of last September, the French-speaking Swiss Committee against the revision of the Narcotics Act, in which the Centre Patronal (employers’ organization in Paudex/Lausanne) is deeply involved, stepped up its working sessions, publications, Press conferences, contacts with Members of Parliament and even with Mr. Couchepin, to present facts, facts, and still more facts in relation to the latest scientific and epidemiological developments concerning drugs and cannabis in particular. These efforts, combined with those of its German-speaking wing, helped turn the tide.
The historical decision of the National Council does not create any gap in the law. It opens the way to a more strict application of the laws in effect, to the cantonal and federal plans, and to measures aimed at supplementing them if necessary, in particular with respect to prevention and the care of drug addicts. (JPC)