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Cocaine: Swiss capital Bern may allow sales as ‘the war on drugs has failed’ | World News


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Law-makers in the Swiss capital, Bern, could be about to allow the sale of small amounts of cocaine for recreational use.

A proposed pilot scheme, similar to a current trial allowing cannabis to be sold in pharmacies, is being considered by the city’s governing council.

Bern’s parliament has supported the idea, but it would still need to overcome opposition from the city government and would also require a change in national law.

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Eva Chen, a member of the Bern council from the Alternative Left Party who co-sponsored the proposal, said: “The war on drugs has failed, and we have to look at new ideas.

“Control and legalisation can do better than mere repression.

“We are still far away from potential legalisation, but we should look at new approaches. We are calling for a scientifically supervised pilot scheme trial.”

Global drugs policy is changing as lawmakers and experts conclude that old methods are not succeeding.

In the US state of Oregon, having small amounts of cocaine has been allowed since 2021.

Many European countries, including Spain, Italy and Portugal, no longer have prison sentences for possession of drugs including cocaine, although nowhere has gone as far as the proposal under discussion in Bern.

Politicians and experts in Switzerland have criticised complete bans, prompting the city to re-examine its stance on the drug.

Switzerland, the eighth most wealthy European nation by GDP and fifth wealthiest per capita, according to the World Population Review, has one of the highest levels of cocaine use on the continent.

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Zurich, Basel and Geneva are all among the top 10 cities in Europe, according to the levels of illicit drugs and their metabolites in waste water.

Cocaine is also increasingly affordable, as prices have halved in the last five years, Addiction Switzerland has said.

Frank Zobel, deputy director at the non-governmental organisation, said: “We have a lot of cocaine in Switzerland right now, at the cheapest prices and the highest quality we have ever seen.

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“You can get a dose of cocaine for about 10 francs these days, not much more than the price for a beer.”

The Bern government warned that cocaine can be life-threatening “for both first-time and long-term users. The consequences of an overdose, but also individual intolerance to even the smallest amounts, can lead to death.”

Ms Chen said it was too early to say how a pilot scheme would develop, including where the drug would be sold or how it would be sourced.

For a trial to take place, parliament would have to amend the law banning the recreational use of the drug.

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