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Swiss referendums show need for increased cannabis law reform education

Allen St. Pierre [Executive Director, NORML]: "The recent results on voter referendums in Switzerland to allow for permanent heroin assisted treatments, but against decriminalizing cannabis possession are vexingly informative.

The near 40% support at the polls for cannabis decriminalization shows a strong plurality, but demonstrates that current Swiss public educational campaigns for cannabis law reform were not as effectively communicated to the voters as one would have thought. And certainly not as well communicated as the politically-charged topic of heroin maintenance.

Some Swiss commentators opine that cannabis is already a very low police priority and enjoys a de facto decriminalized status. This is affirmed by the high 40% minority vote that supported the decriminalization of marijuana despite the absence of a grassroots organization, like NORML, advocating for reform. Yet, Swiss voters chose to affirm the science and compassion of "harm reduction" as an effective means to deal with the serious health (and societal) concerns regarding heroin use.

Furthermore, the Swiss voters' rejection for cannabis law reform is in stark contrast to emerging social and legal trends worldwide favoring cannabis law reforms circa the 1990s. For example, 65% of Massachusetts voters recently voted in favor of cannabis decriminalization."

Opinions expressed in JURIST Commentary are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST's editors, staff, donors or the University of Pittsburgh.

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