The last three years have seen a Swiss cannabis renaissance, with 200 new hemp stores opening across the nation, 50 of them in Zurich alone. As well as selling hemp clothing and hemp seed food, many of these enterprising new businesses have been selling marijuana from Swiss greenhouses as pot-pourri or herbal scent, labelled “not for consumption.”
Swiss law dictates that marijuana cannot be produced or sold for narcotic purposes, and the onus is on the state to prove illegal intent. Despite this, Bruno Hiltebrand, owner of a store called James Blunt, was charged with trafficking in marijuana as a narcotic. His store offered aromatic sachets of Swiss buds with names like “Lemon Skunk” and “Organic Northern Lights”.
Police claimed that “parents were upset that their children were spending their entire pocket money in these shops,” and also cited complaints about importation from their German and Italian counterparts.
Said Hiltebrand: “I don’t accept responsibility for misuse of the product. If the police catch a Porsche driver going over the speed limit, they don’t punish the car salesman. If we get a customer who says they want something to smoke, we tell them firmly that we don’t have anything to smoke, just aroma sachets.”
The judge didn’t buy it, and gave Hiltebrand a suspended 14 month sentence and a hefty fine. Hiltebrand is appealing of course, and the case will likely go to the Swiss Supreme Court within two years.
In the meantime, Swiss cops will undoubtedly start a crackdown on other hemp stores selling marijuana sachets, likely forcing many out of business.
High Times, Swiss bad times
Meanwhile, the High Times December 98 issue ran a blisteringly negative article about Christina Patterson and the Swiss Hemp Co, which was featured in CC#11 (CC in Cannabioland).
HT claims that Patterson callously sent a number of activists marijuana through the mail, thereby setting them up for arrest and persecution.
Apparently overconfident of their ability to get the pot through the US mail, and trusting in international laws which allow a medicine banned in one country to be imported from another, Patterson sent fat sacks of Swiss medicine to a number of US activists and med-pot patients, none of whom wanted to get pot through the mail, and many of whom were subsequently busted for importation.
The HT piece also quoted Ed Rosenthal as saying that all the Swiss pot was “bunk weed” grown from inferior stock. CC photographer Barge, who visited the Swiss fields in 1997, claims that although Swiss bud provided only a “mild, working high” the jars of extracted trichomes “made up for any deficiencies.”
Positive drug policy
Yet despite these problems on the cannabis scene, Swiss drug policy continues to move in a positive direction. Experiments involving legal prescription of heroin to addicts has met with unanimous and enthusiastic support from police, doctors and citizens alike.
Now a federal report has recommended that Switzerland conduct an experiment in “limited drugs decriminalisation” in some cities. The report has support from Social and Christian Democrat representatives, as well as members of the libertarian Radical Democratic Party, and also the right-wing Swiss People’s Party.
The Swiss Federal Health Office has already prepared a legislative proposal for the permanent decriminalisation of cannabis, cocaine and heroin. Federal Health Office director, Thomas Zeltner, said that “all substances should be treated the same” for legal purposes.
Despite this comment, Zeltner does not support decriminalizing trade and distribution of cannabis for drug purposes. If Switzerland is going to completely free the weed, they need a cannabis activist with good seed stock, lots of farm space, and a better understanding of how to successfully promote change without endangering others.