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Potent Swiss Pot Threatens Decriminalisation Law

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Zurich - Swiss federal health officials still favour decriminalising cannabis consumption but political opposition is stiffening after a recent study showed Swiss marijuana is far more potent than previously assumed.


A study conducted by a Swiss consumer watchdog showing Swiss cannabis had up to 28 percent of the euphoria-producing active ingredient tetra-hydro cannabinol (THC) has alarmed politicians and health officials and threatens to derail liberalisation.


Richard Mueller, director of the Swiss Institute for Substance Abuse, told the SonntagsZeitung newspaper: "We have to revise our verdict. Smoking cannabis isn't as harmless as we thought."


According to the study, THC levels measured in cannabis in Switzerland in 1997 were between only 1.5 and six percent.


The health agency said it had known that THC levels had gone up in recent years.


"We have always said it (smoking cannabis) is not harmless," a spokeswoman for the Federal Office for Public Health said on Monday, "but it is no more dangerous than other substances out there."


The government aims to prevent abuse by informing youths about the potential dangers of drugs and alcohol before they start using them.


"Especially with youths, I think it makes sense to tell them (cannabis) is treated the same way as alcohol and tobacco. Then we may have better access to them rather than if we tell them that it's against the law," she said.


But political opposition is growing to a law now making its way through parliament that would decriminalise smoking pot.


The upper house of parliament approved the bill last year, and the lower house will address it early in 2003.


"In the last few months there has been a more restrictive way of looking at it," Rosemarie Dormann, a member of the lower house's social security and health committee, told SonntagsZeitung.


"I will do everything to prevent this issue from coming through," MP Toni Bortoluzzi of the Swiss People's Party was quoted as saying on Sunday.


Source: Reuters UK

Published: December 02, 2002

Copyright: 2002 Reuters News Service

Website: http://www.reuters.com

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