Bern considers legal cocaine project

by Team Inc.

cocaine snorting

The Swiss capital is exploring a pilot project to allow the sale of cocaine for recreational use - a radical approach to the war on drugs that has not been tried elsewhere.

The parliament in Bern has supported the idea. Before this project can get off the ground, it still has to go through the city government and will require a change in national legislation.

Cocaine legislation

Drug policies are changing rapidly around the world. The US state of Oregon decriminalized the possession of small amounts in 2021 cocaine decriminalizes to treat drug addiction. Many European countries, including Spain, Italy and Portugal, no longer have prison sentences for possession of drugs, including cocaine. Yet it never got as far as the proposal now before us in Bern.

Switzerland is reviewing its position on the drug after some politicians and experts criticized full bans as ineffective. The proposal is currently in its early stages and follows studies now underway to enable the legal sale of cannabis. “The war on drugs has failed and we need to look at new ideas,” said Eva Chen, Bern council member of the Alternative Left Party. “Control and legalization can work better than mere repression.”

Cocaine use in Switzerland

Wealthy Switzerland has one of the highest levels of cocaine use in Europe, as measured in wastewater. Zurich, Basel and Geneva are all in the top 10 cities in Europe when it comes to use of the illegal drug.
Swiss cities including Bern are also showing increasing use while cocaine prices have halved in the past five years, according to Addiction Switzerland. “We currently have a lot of cocaine in Switzerland, at the cheapest prices and highest quality we have ever seen,” Addiction Switzerland said. “Nowadays you can get a dose of cocaine for about 10 francs, not much more than the price of a beer.”

Cocaine trial

Bern's Directorate of Education, Social Affairs and Sports is preparing a report on a possible cocaine test, although this does not mean that it will definitely take place. “Cocaine can be life-threatening for both new and long-term users. The consequences of an overdose, but also individual intolerance to even the smallest quantities, can lead to death,” the Bern government said.

Bern MP Chen said it is too early to say what a pilot project will look like. “We are still far from possible legalization, but we need to look at new approaches. That is why we advocate a pilot project under scientific supervision.”

For a trial to take place, parliament must change the law banning the recreational use of the drug. The decision could come within a few years, or sooner as current cannabis programs say political experts.
Any legalization would come with quality controls and information campaigns, Chen said, adding the approach would also reduce a lucrative criminal market. Experts are divided, and even those in favor of the process are concerned about the potential dangers.

“Cocaine is one of the most addictive drugs we know,” says Boris Quednow, group leader at the Center for Psychiatric Research at the University of Zurich. He says its risks are on a completely different level than those of alcohol or cannabis, citing links to heart damage, stroke, depression and anxiety.

On the other hand, Thilo Beck, from the Arud Zentrum for Addiction Medicine, the largest center for addiction medicine in Switzerland, said it was time for a more "mature" policy on cocaine.
“Cocaine is not healthy, but the reality is that people use it,” says Beck. “We can't change that, so we have to try to make sure people use it in the safest and least harmful way.”

Source: Reuters (EN)

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