Cannabis in Switzerland

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Legalization booth in Zurich

Cannabis in Switzerland is illegal, though minor possession was decriminalized to a fine in 2012. Several cantons began to allow adults to cultivate and use cannabis in 2012, but this was struck down by federal courts. In 2016, four cities stated they were looking into establishing pilot cannabis clubs. The number of cannabis users in Switzerland is estimated to be around 500,000 among a population of 8 million.[1]


Cannabis that contains more than 1.0% THC is classified as an illegal drug in Switzerland.[2] Thus, according to the Federal Law on Drugs: the production, culture, use, and possession of cannabis, are all prohibited and considered as criminal infringements.[3] These infringements are punishable by up to three years of imprisonment and/or a fine.

Reform attempts[edit]

The federal council has committed to implement changes as to decriminalization of personal use and possession already in 2001, and the parliament is currently tasked to tender concrete approaches. As nothing is coming forth on a parliamentary basis, a referendum was launched in 2008.[4][5]


Since 28 September 2012, the possession of less than 10 grams of cannabis is no longer a criminal infringement, but is still punished by a 100 Swiss francs flat fine.[6] Professional cannabis trade, as well as the possession of a quantity of cannabis that can affect the health of a large number of people (4 kg of hashish, according to the Federal Court[7]), are punished by one to three years of imprisonment that can be augmented with a fine.[3]

Canton legalization struck down[edit]

On 5 October 2012, the Federal Court invalidated the Latin Concordat on hemp culture and trading, that came into force on 1 January 2012, which allowed private citizens in the cantons of Geneva, Freiburg, Valais, Vaud, Neuchâtel, Bâle-Town and Ticino to grow up to 4 hemp plants (containing less than 1.0% of THC), for violating the federal law on drugs.[8][9]

Cannabis clubs[edit]

In 2016 the cities of Zurich, Basel, Bern, and Geneva stated that they planned to establish pilot cannabis clubs to gauge their utility, limited to 2,000 members total and to be studied for four years.[10]


The penalties imposed in practice also vary among cantons to a certain degree. The 2007 penalty guidelines adopted by the Bernese Judges' Association provide as follows:[11]

Infraction Penalty
Possession of less than 10 grams of cannabis 100 CHF flat fine
Consumption of soft drugs in normal cases (first infraction, or minor quantity, or brief period of consumption) Fine of 100 CHF or more (depending on the accused's financial circumstances).
Consumption of soft drugs, repeated infractions Increasing fine or monetary penalty (depending on the severity of the infraction and the accused's financial circumstances).
Trade in soft drugs, up to 100 g Monetary penalty of 1–5 daily rates. The daily rate is set by the court and usually amounts to roughly one thirtieth of the accused's monthly income.[12]
Trade in soft drugs, 100 g to 1 kg Monetary penalty of 5–30 daily rates.
Trade in soft drugs, 1 kg or more Monetary penalty of more than 30 daily rates.
Possession of more than 4 kg One to three years of imprisonment[3][7]

An attempt to decriminalize possession and consumption of cannabis failed narrowly in Parliament in 2004.[13] As a reaction, a popular initiative ("Eidgenössische Volksinitiative für eine vernünftige Hanf-Politik mit wirksamem Jugendschutz") to amend the constitution to legalize cannabis was introduced 2004.[14] Results from the national referendum in November 2008 showed only 36.7% of those voting supported legalizing cannabis.[14][15]


  1. ^ "'Cannabis clubs' set for four Swiss cities - The Local". 2016-11-18. Retrieved 2016-11-23. 
  2. ^ See the Interior Department Edict on Drugs 30/05/2011
  3. ^ a b c "RS 812.121 Loi fédérale du 3 octobre 1951 sur les stupéfiants et les substances psychotropes (Loi sur les stupéfiants, LStup)". Retrieved 2016-11-16. 
  4. ^ Bundesgesetz vom 3. Oktober 1951 über die Betäubungsmittel und die psychotropen Stoffe (Betäubungsmittelgesetz, BetmG),, 12 June 1981, retrieved 2011-02-17 
  5. ^ de:Eidgenössische Volksinitiative "für eine vernünftige Hanf-Politik mit wirksamem Jugendschutz"
  6. ^ "FF 2012 7539" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-11-16. 
  7. ^ a b Cf. the Federal Court judgement ATF 109 IV 143
  8. ^ Ian Sparks (17 November 2011), Swiss cannabis smokers to be allowed to grow four marijuana plants each (to stop them buying drugs illegally), London:, retrieved 2012-02-26 
  9. ^ "Justice: Le TF annule le concordat latin sur la culture du chanvre - Suisse". Retrieved 2016-11-16. 
  10. ^ "'Cannabis clubs' set for four Swiss cities - The Local". 2016-11-18. Retrieved 2016-11-23. 
  11. ^ Verband Bernischer Richter und Richterinnen (VBR) / Association des juges bernois (AJB) (valid as of 1 January 2007). Richtlinien für die Strafzumessung (in German) (2 / 2006 ed.). p. 27.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  12. ^ Annex to the Guidelines, op.cit., p. 3.
  13. ^ See documentation available under docket no. 01.024 on the Parliament website.
  14. ^ a b Eidgenössische Volksinitiative 'für eine vernünftige Hanf-Politik mit wirksamem Jugendschutz', – Swiss government, for results see: "Abstimmung Nr. 538". Retrieved 2013-09-05.
  15. ^ "Swiss approve prescription heroin". BBC News Online. 30 November 2008. Retrieved 30 November 2008.