By Alfa · Mar 6, 2004 · ·
  1. Alfa

    The United Nations International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has
    sharply criticised aspects of Switzerland's drugs policy.

    The INCB said plans to decriminalise cannabis and the provision of
    injection rooms for heroin addicts were steps in the wrong direction.

    The criticism was contained in the INCB's annual report, which
    monitors the ways in which countries around the world are upholding
    international conventions on drugs control.

    The most important of these, the convention of 1961, says drugs should
    be used for medical and scientific purposes only.

    Switzerland is a party to this convention, but Herbert Schaepe, the
    INCB's secretary general, believes this is being undermined by
    government proposals to decriminalise cannabis.

    "How can we eradicate drugs in developing countries if a rich country
    like Switzerland cultivates between 300 and 500 hectares for the
    production of cannabis?" Schaepe said.

    "We're already getting complaints from neighbouring countries, with
    Swiss cannabis being seized in France and Germany.

    "It's really very disturbing that a country with such good financial
    resources can't stop this."

    But Thomas Zeltner, director of Switzerland's Federal Health Office,
    says the proposals to decriminalise cannabis simply reflect reality
    and have the support of the Swiss public.

    Hemp Shop Trip

    Earlier this week Zeltner accompanied the Swiss interior minister,
    Pascal Couchepin, to a hemp shop, where the minister was apparently
    "very impressed" by the variety of cannabis products on offer.

    "We think it is better to permit the use and sale of these products in
    a controlled manner," Zeltner told swissinfo. "But [they are meant]
    for adults only and not for foreigners - we don't want to offend
    neighbouring countries."

    But Zeltner admits that a lot of people in Switzerland are also
    growing cannabis in their attics or basements.

    "It is a dilemma. This market is very difficult to control, but that
    doesn't mean we are not bothering about it."

    Zeltner also denies that permitting cannabis as a social drug
    undermines the 1961 convention. "We took legal advice on that and I'm
    confident we will reach a solution with the INCB on that point."

    Injection Rooms

    But the INCB's criticism does not stop at cannabis. The board also has
    serious doubts about Switzerland's policy of providing injection rooms
    for heroin addicts.

    The rooms, now commonplace in most Swiss towns and cities, provide
    addicts with clean needles, medical attention and a safe place to take
    their drugs.

    "Allowing drug abusers to take illegal drugs into an injection room
    where they can consume in a cosy environment under the supervision of
    the state is not in line with international treaties," said Schaepe.

    "It means illicit drugs can be abused with impunity."

    Harm Reduction

    Schaepe also casts doubt on Swiss claims that injection rooms help
    prevent the spread of HIV infection among drug users.

    "Research shows that better prevention and education campaigns would
    be more useful in preventing the spread of HIV," he insisted.

    According to statistics, the rate of HIV infection among drug users in
    Switzerland has fallen since the introduction of injection rooms, but
    it is difficult to prove that the decline is a direct result of the

    Zeltner maintains that injection rooms are valuable in that they
    reduce the harm caused by heroin addiction.

    "Deaths from overdoses are much lower, because medical staff are
    immediately available to treat addicts.

    "And we see the rooms as a possible first step to getting addicts off
    drugs, with social workers and counsellors on hand to offer advice."


    Zeltner says he is somewhat disappointed by the INCB's criticism.

    "We do understand that the INCB as a global player has some difficulty
    bringing all member states under one umbrella," he said.

    "But at the end of the day, each country has to find its own policy,
    and that will be different in different countries."

    Schaepe maintains that these policies should not diverge so widely
    that they become inconsistent with international conventions.

    "Of course governments are the masters of their drugs policies," he
    said. "But when one or two begin to disagree with the international
    framework, it is our duty to alert the international community to
    these developments."

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  1. Woodman
    The UN is a JOKE!

    It is little more than an assembly of political dinosaurs; a forum by which self-important bureaucrats can masturbate their political egos making policy that no one bothers to follow.

    They f**k-up everything they touch and couldn't govern their way out of a paper bag.

    Most recent UN success story: Haiti.

    Why Switzerland would even bother explaining its position to a body as politically impotent as the UN is beyond my understanding.
  2. Alfa
    The UN is the reason why many countries have not legalized yet. They are hold to the conventions on psychotropic drugs, signed by many countries.
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