The legal sale of cocaine in the Swiss capital, Bern, will be allowed following the introduction of a bill last week which saw it pass by 43 votes to 18. However, the sale of cocaine cannot be legalised until the bill is passed at the federal level, by the government.
The Alternative Left party of the Bern municipal government introduced the bill, which was opposed by councillors from centre-right and religious parties. The bill had support from the left, including members of the Social Democratic Party.
Last year Bern became one of the first cities in Europe to successfully pass a bill at the federal level allowing the legal sale of cannabis. Designed as a pilot study that could be rolled out across the rest of the country, the Swiss University of Bern’s SCRIPT project (Safer Cannabis – Research in Pharmacies Trial) will study what effects legal cannabis sales will have on society.
The federal government allowed Bern’s pilot cannabis sales project last month, although this is not likely to happen with cocaine sales in the immediate future.
Franziska Teuscher, Director of Education, Social Affairs and Sport for the Bern municipal government explained that the cannabis bill was passed at the federal level due to pressure on the government from other cities.
She said, “The government only agreed to the cannabis pilot projects under pressure from the cities.” She carried on to say that the legal cocaine sales bill was intended to send a signal to other cities.
Cocaine consumption in Switzerland is amongst the highest in Europe, it has four cities in the top 20; Zurich, Geneva and Basel occupy 5th, 6th and 7th respectively, with Bern being 18th, (the list excludes cities in non-EU countries).
A previous proposal to legalise cocaine sales was rejected in 2019, but revised plans with more restrictions gained enough additional support from the left-wing Social Democratic Party to force the motion through on Thursday.
Discussing the proposal, Andre Gomes, Communications Lead at Release said, “This pilot will be incredibly interesting, given Europe’s position as the centre of demand for global cocaine consumption. While details are still unclear about how this model would work, pressure from city-level initiatives has been successful in demonstrating potential future drug regulation models.
“The cocaine industry will only become safer once there is reform across its global supply chain. How this cocaine will be legally obtained is still unclear; whatever regulatory model is implemented is going to have to take a position against the dangerous and ineffective global drug war.”