The Swiss drug policy once was very progressive in the 1990s when the harm related to drug use was most visible to the public. Failure of repression opened the room for more innovative harm reduction approaches. In 2008, the four-pillar model including the legal basis for substitution and heroin-assisted treatment of opioid use disorders as well as for other harm reduction facilities was approved by the population that had learned about the success of these measures. Less violence, better health outcomes among people who use drugs and less stigma supported the change of attitudes in the population towards a public health-based approach when dealing with drug use. Switzerland first received heavy criticism for the autonomous policy change at the international level while it is nowadays often cited as best practice example for dealing with people with an opioid use disorder. Otherwise, the country has usually been quiet in drug policy discussions at the UN level. Nevertheless, Switzerland’s reappointment to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the central drug policy-making body within the United Nations for a period of four years starting in 2018 is promising, given their unblemished recommendation for human rights-based drug policies including the abolition of the death penalty for drug offences, among other things. Alongside cannabis policy changes at the international level, Switzerland witnessed an unexpected development in cannabis availability and sales. However, the country is still rather conservative with regard to current cannabis policies, although cannabis with less than 1% of THC can be sold legally and the possession of up to 10 g will be followed by a fine only, if at all. Switzerland is open to experiment with new regulations but only if the law allows for that. To conclude, the strong sense of connectedness with the international community may support Switzerland’s next steps towards public health and evidence-based harm reduction.
Zobel, F. and Maier, L.J. (2018), "Switzerland: Moving Towards Public Health and Harm Reduction", Klein, A. and Stothard, B. (Ed.) Collapse of the Global Order on Drugs: From UNGASS 2016 to Review 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 277-288. https://doi.org/10.1108/978-1-78756-487-920181014Download as .RIS
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