Drug News

Switzerland Contemplates Unprecedented Move: Pilot Scheme for Recreational Cocaine Sales

Switzerland’s capital, Bern, is exploring a groundbreaking pilot scheme that would permit the recreational sale of cocaine, challenging traditional approaches to the war on drugs. While the proposal has garnered support from the parliament in Bern, it faces opposition from the city government and necessitates a change in national law.

This innovative approach reflects evolving global attitudes toward drug policy, with examples like the U.S. state of Oregon decriminalizing small amounts of cocaine in 2021 in favor of drug treatment. Several European countries, including Spain, Italy, and Portugal, have eliminated prison sentences for drug possession, but none have ventured as far as the proposed initiative in Bern.

Switzerland, known for its wealth, is reconsidering its stance on drugs after criticism that complete bans are ineffective. The proposal, still in its early stages, follows ongoing trials to legalize the sale of cannabis.

Eva Chen, a member of the Bern council from the Alternative Left Party and co-sponsor of the proposal, stated, “The war on drugs has failed, and we have to look at new ideas. Control and legalization can do better than mere repression.”

Switzerland faces a significant cocaine use issue, with some of the highest levels in Europe, according to wastewater measurements. Swiss cities, including Bern, have seen increasing cocaine usage, and prices have dropped significantly over the past five years.

Frank Zobel, deputy director at Addiction Switzerland, highlighted the current situation, stating, “We have a lot of cocaine in Switzerland right now, at the cheapest prices and the highest quality we have ever seen.”

While Bern’s education, social affairs, and sport directorate are preparing a report on the potential cocaine trial, the government emphasizes the life-threatening nature of the drug and the need for caution.

For a trial to proceed, parliament must amend laws prohibiting recreational cocaine use. Political experts suggest a decision could come in the coming years, potentially accelerated if the ongoing cannabis schemes, where the drug is sold at pharmacies, demonstrate success.

Supporters argue that any legalization would include quality controls and information campaigns, reducing the lucrative criminal market. However, experts remain divided, with concerns about cocaine’s highly addictive nature and associated health risks.

Leo, a cocaine user from Geneva, believes legalizing the drug could facilitate treatment, reduce violence and crime, and enhance drug quality control. He suggests that countries opting for legalization or decriminalization have better results in terms of prevention and overall health policies, praising Switzerland for its bold policies with other drugs.


Joan David-Leonhard

Joan David Leonhard is a recent Pharm.D graduate with a strong passion for the pharmaceutical industry and a particular interest in pharmaceutical media and communication. Her brief internship experience includes roles in pharmacy where she built strong patient-pharmacist relationships and a pharmaceutical media internship where she actively contributed to drug information articles, blog posts, social media engagement, and various media projects.
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