Cannabis Thrives in Neutral Swiss Soil

<br /> CC11: Cannabis Thrives in Neutral Swiss Soil




A Visit to the Dream Farm

Five hundred years of democracy,” said Orson Wells contemptuously, “and Switzerland has produced the Cuckoo clock.”

It seems Wells spoke too soon, for Switzerland has produced an environment in which all types of cannabis can be grown in their full, unadulterated, unmanipulated glory, without government restriction or control.

With drug laws becoming more and more restrictive all over the world, could it really be possible that there exists a place where cannabis grows freely and legally? It’s true, and here is the story of how this is possible.

Swiss hold onto their Rights

Switzerland is not a member of the European Union, nor is it a member of the United Nations. It did sign the UN Single Convention Treaty on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, but only with certain provisions, provisions which included the right to grow cannabis domestically.

Swiss Success with Tolerant Drug Policy

In the late 1970’s and 1980’s the Swiss government took a much harder stance on all drug use, especially heroin, imposing sentences for dealing of up to 20 years imprisonment. During the 1980’s the People’s Park in Zurich became a haven for heroin users, earning it the moniker “Needle Park”.

The Swiss soon realized that their heavy-handed policy wasn’t working. In 1989, the Swiss Narcotics Commission recommended a more tolerant approach, even advocating the legalization of personal possession and use of all substances.

Though this legalization has never happened, policies were implemented to provide heroin users with sterilized needles. Various cantons (different Swiss states) created “fixer rooms” where heroin users could inject themselves safely.

In October 1997, the Swiss people overwhelmingly supported continuing with a humane and tolerant policy towards heroin users, with 71% voting against a referendum proposal which would have ended the current tolerant methods of dealing with heroin use.

According to Swiss attorney Eoachem Lerff, “Switzerland’s parliament didn’t agree to sign in its entirety because it was considered to be pressured.” Switzerland doesn’t like to give up its rights, even when the pressure is on.

In Switzerland, cannabis is an old tradition: Swiss farmers grew cannabis as a lucrative cash crop until the early sixties, when the custom died out with the start of global panic over drugs. However, there was never a change in Swiss law that would cause the cessation of cannabis farming. Everyone just stopped growing it.

“This is exactly it,” admits Josef Ackermann, vice-director at the Swiss Ministry of Agriculture. “Until four years ago, nobody noticed.”

The Swiss Hemp Trading Company

Nobody noticed or even knew that cannabis was legal in Switzerland until American/Swiss citizen Shirin Patterson uncovered these facts through her own research of Swiss laws. She formed the Swiss Hemp Trading Company (SWIHTCO) in January of 1993, and has been growing cannabis and informing other Swiss farmers of their right to grow ever since.

Thanks to her efforts, farmers in Switzerland belong to what is the world’s largest and most successful agricultural cooperative dedicated to the planting, cultivation and harvesting of cannabis sativa.

SWIHTCO had a field of about 12 acres at the Cannabioland farm this season. There were around 50 farmers who grew cannabis throughout Switzerland this season, but none of them are growing plots quite the size of Cannabioland.

SWIHTCO is steadfastly devoted to the cause of producing organic, high quality cannabis and making it available to anyone and everyone who can benefit from its therapeutic and medicinal applications. The Swiss government appears supportive of these practices.

“Here in Switzerland the government does not carry out helicopter-borne search and destroy missions on cannabis,” says Patterson. “In Switzerland hemp farmers are actually able to receive government subsidies.”

Legal Cannabis in Switzerland

Although cannabis is legal, there is little or no open cannabis smoking in Swiss streets, restaurants or coffee shops. In part this is because the news of the legality of cannabis has been slow to spread to the masses.

Yet cannabis flowers can be purchased over the counter in pharmacies and health food stores throughout the country. No prescription is required, it’s right there on the shelf with the shampoo and the vitamin C.

Hemp stores, with their usual selection of clothing and paraphernalia, are also growing their own plants and selling the buds alongside the grow lights. Cannabis plants can also be purchased from farms throughout the country, and foods made from cannabis buds (space cookies) are available in many of the open air markets.

If only Orson Wells could see it now.

By Christina Patterson