Swiss cannabis activists Bernard Rappaz and Claude Rey were arrested on November 14, 2001, and charged with trafficking in marijuana. Two dozen police officers raided their Valchanvre co-operative and confiscated 50 tons of cannabis material, including everything from whole plants with soil to leaf, buds and hash. Rey was released in December, but as of late January Rappaz was still imprisoned, and engaged in a hunger strike.
Rappaz is a pioneer of the Swiss cannabis movement and the founder of Valchanvre, a company which creates and distributes hemp products, including essential oils, food items and a hemp balm. Rappaz also won the “Canna Swiss Cup” in 1999, with a strain called Walliser Queen which he developed after almost 30 years of breeding (CC#18, Switzerland’s first Cannabis Cup).
In 1996 Rappaz was imprisoned for selling pillows stuffed with cannabis buds. He launched a hunger strike on his first day in jail, and fasted for 42 days before being released.
Immediately after this most recent arrest Rappaz also began a hunger strike. As of this writing in late January, after two months without food the 48-year old Rappaz is being kept in the prison hospital and is reportedly very weak ? his friends and associates warned that he was in danger of falling into a coma.
Rappaz’s imprisonment has become a rallying point for Swiss and other european activists. A number of rallies and demonstrations have been held to demand Rappaz’s release and an end to “DEA-style tactics” by Swiss police.
High-potency buds are now openly sold across most of Switzerland, and the Swiss government is moving steadily towards full decriminalization of cannabis cultivation. Yet many anti-pot laws remain in place and Rappaz could face two years in jail if convicted. Rappaz is married and has an eight-month old child.
Rappaz claims that the cannabis was intended for distribution to medical marijuana patients. He has been openly advertising and promoting the sale of cannabis for medical use for many years.