Swiss say no to legal cannabis, yes to prescription heroin

Geneva  - Swiss voters on Sunday rejected a proposition to decriminalize cannabis for personal consumption but voted by a large majority to extend a government programme that gives heroin to hard- core addicts.

In a surprise, voters chose to remove the statute of limitations on acts of paedophilia, despite government opposition to the proposal, which was put forward by parents' groups.

This put sexual offenses against children on equal footing with genocide and war crimes, the only other crimes that have no statute of limitations under to Swiss law.

The yes vote for the prescription heroin programme in the nationwide referendum was seen as voters backing the government's so- called four pillar drug policy, which promotes prevention, harm reduction, therapy and repression.

Under the scheme, launched in the 1990s, addicts can receive the drug in a hygenic clinic, under medical supervision and accompanied by therapy.

Public health officials said that only addicts who had been using the opiate for more than a decade and failed at rehabilitation are given the doses.

Some 1,300 addicts are said to be part of the programme, with some eventually moving to methadone instead of heroin.

Opponents of the programme said that it failed to actually get the majority of addicts off heroin, but supporters countered that it lowered the rate of drug-related crimes and deaths, which had been a major problem in the early 1990s.

The proposal to decriminalize cannabis, the most widely used illegal drug in Switzerland, failed along with an attempt to lower the minimum retirement age for full benefits to

The initiative sought to allow the Swiss to use marijuana and even grow it for personal consumption, but opponents said it would increase cannabis tourism and turn the country into a "Mecca for drugs." (dpa)