Sunday, November 30, 2008

Heroin and Cannabis in Switzerland

Swiss voters have backed a change in health policy that would provide prescription heroin to addicts. Final results from the national referendum showed 68% of voters supported the plan. The scheme, where addicts inject the drug under medical supervision at a clinic, began in Zurich 14 years ago before spreading across the country.

In another referendum, the Swiss appear to have rejected the decriminalisation of cannabis. The heroin vote was one of a series of referendums held to decide policy on illegal drugs. Switzerland would be the first country to include it in government policy. Supporters say it has had positive results - getting long-term addicts out of Switzerland's once notorious "needle parks" and reducing drug-related crime. Under the scheme, addicts visit clinics up to twice a day, where they inject the drug under medical supervision. They can also be treated for other medical issues or mental health problems.

On cannabis things were less clear - Swiss police regularly turn a blind eye to moderate cannabis use. But recent studies suggesting that long-term use of the drug may be more harmful than previously thought looked likely to encourage a "No" to decriminalisation. Early results showed only 36.8% of those voting supported decriminalising cannabis, the Associated Press (AP) news agency said.


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