Swiss spliff: 4 cities pave way for opening of ‘cannabis clubs’

© Ueslei Marcelino
A pilot project for creation of cannabis clubs, where members can use the soft drug without fear of being punished, is being launched in four Swiss cities – Zurich, Basel, Bern and Geneva, local media report.

"The four cities have agreed to include pilot projects on their territory," Sandro Cattacin, sociology professor at the University of Geneva, and Geneva representative in the discussions of the cannabis clubs issue, told broadcaster SRF

If the project is implemented, that would mean authorized controlled use of cannabis for young people and adults suffering from drug-linked problems. Scientists are planning to monitor the cannabis clubs project.

It still has to be approved by cantonal governments, as well as the federal office for public health.

The clubs would allow up to 2,000 people to legally use cannabis. However, at least 500,000 people smoke marijuana in Switzerland despite of the existing ban and fines, according to SRF.

The initiative to open cannabis clubs has been the subject of discussion since 2014.

There has been a heated debate over whether to allow minors to become club members.

In 2014 The Swiss People’s Party in Geneva strongly opposed the project, saying that cannabis has become a “hard drug.”

The proponents have been saying that the new measure would reduce the “black market” through newly imposed controls.

It is illegal to use cannabis in Switzerland, although enforcement varies from canton to canton.

In 2013, the federal government issued a law saying that carrying 10 grams (or less) of cannabis is no longer a criminal offense and would be punishable instead by a fine of 100 francs ($99).