Editorial, by Alba Reina Duran, 4 January 2018


In February 2017, the headlines announcing the sale of cannabis was in fact fake buzz. It’s nothing new. In fact, since 1951 the Federal Act on Narcotics has authorized the consumption of small quantities of narcotics that have the effect of cannabis to individuals over the age of 18. It is, however, the discussion over "illegal", "legal", and "authorized" that has caused tensions and has raised many questions for the rights of the child. Hemp is legal with a THC concentration of 0.9%, however hemp with a THC concentration of 1.1% is deemed illegal. It is no longer surprising to see ads on the front of kiosks or shops in Sierre or Geneva stating, "cannabis for sale." It is this blatant display of marketing that fuels existing tensions.

If the legal age to purchase tobacco is 18, it is the same for cannabidiol. The "pleasure without getting high," does not equate to the effect of real "weed" that is found on a street corner with a higher concentration of THC. At twenty francs a pack in a store, the product lacks the attractiveness of cannabis available on the black market for a lower price. According to Dr. Stephan, a child psychiatrist at the CHUV, an adolescent is often torn between the lack of self-confidence and a desire to become independent, which often drives them to seek thrills and engage in risky behaviors. From a neurological point of view, 18-25 year olds still belong to this same group.

In addition, the expertise to determine the amount of THC is expensive, which complicates police interventions in the field. Thus, according to Dr. Stephan, it is the gap between authorization and prohibition that challenges authority. For minors, therapeutic treatment is encouraged according to the principles of juvenile justice. Young people over 18 years old, however, receive a fine. How can we justify the difference in treatment of "adolescents" according to their legal age? Does it reflect a sort of selective paternalism?

According to the Juvenile Court Judge of the Canton of Fribourg, Sandrine Boillat Zaugg, it is risky to reduce the use of legal cannabis to tax revenues. Through this, the problem will not be resolved. A real discomfort derives from the suffering and psychological distress of some users and the debate on the reason of consumption is avoided.

While the decriminalization of drugs is supported by the Global Commission on Drug Policy, the goal set out in its 2016 report is to regulate the narcotics market, starting with cannabis. In Portugal, an effective program has shown that this method does not push people to use drugs earlier, which is the main fear. Smokers volunteered to participate in a pilot project initiated by the Federal Office of Public Health and claimed to smoke for both pleasure and therapeutic reasons.

Contrary to this argument, alcohol, which has a higher mortality rate than cannabis, is allowed to be consumed from the age of 16. We must therefore question ourselves: is there a double standard in our society when it comes to the rights of children in the consumption of psychotropic products? Should the rights of the child exclude adolescents? Would focusing on protecting children ignore young people from the age of 18 to 25 that are less at risk than 12 to 17 year olds?

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