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Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy
Canadian Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs
Volume 3 - Public Policy Options

Chapter 20 - Public Policy In Other Countries - Switzerland



Switzerland's drug policy has attracted considerable attention in recent years. As a result of widely distributed pictures of the open drug scene in Zurich, the country's injection clinics and heroin prescriptions for drug “addicts” are now known around the world. More recently, Switzerland's Parliament introduced a bill to regulate the production and sale of cannabis, and that bill is currently under study.

Switzerland is a Confederation[2][131] consisting of 26 cantons and half-cantons and has a population of slightly more than seven million inhabitants. The cantons are currently subdivided into 2,904 political communes. The federal Constitution, which was passed in 1848, is the legal basis of the federal state. It guarantees the fundamental rights of individuals and the people's participation in the country's political life, divides jurisdictions between the Confederation and the cantons and defines the powers of the federal authorities. Switzerland is made up of various linguistic, ethnic and denominational communities. Under Article 4 of the Constitution, German, French, Italian and Romansch are the country's four national languages. German is the language spoken by the majority of Swiss (63.7 per cent). All the cantons have their own constitution, parliament, government and courts. The cantons have certain legislative powers which have been conferred on them by the federal Constitution.

Switzerland's political structure is important to our understanding of that country's drug policy. In fact, some writers[3][132] argue that there are in fact 26 drugs policies in Switzerland, one for each canton and half-canton. This diversity is often overlooked, since the media and drug literature have focused in particular on the "open drug scenes" in Zurich and on the medical prescription of heroin for severally dependent persons, a practice endorsed by the Swiss Confederation.[4][133]


[1][130]  This section draws to a large degree on the report prepared for the Committee by the Library of Parliament: C. Collin, (2002) National Drug Policy: Switzerland. Ottawa: Library of Parliament, report prepared for the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs, available online at www.parl.gc.ca/illegaldrugs.asp.

[2][131]  This term is used to designate the federal state.

[3][132]  Yan Boggio et al., (1997) Apprendre à gérer : La politique suisse en matière de drogue, Geneva: Georg, 1997.

[4][133]  Ibid., page 38.

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