With 43 votes to 18, the Bern city council approved a motion by the Alternative Left (AL) on Thursday which seeks to start a scientific pilot trial of controlled cocaine sales, the Berner Zeitung reports.
The capital’s vote is meant to signal its interest in a pilot project to other Swiss cities and the Federal Council. However, for the sale of cocaine to be legalised the bill would need to be passed at the federal level, by the government.
Though cocaine is by no means a harmless drug, the regulated sale of the drug could lead to simplified prevention and better means of control as drugs will be consumed whether they are banned or not, Bern politicians found.
The Swiss People’s Party, the FDP.The Liberals, and the Evangelical Party, alongside some members of the Social Democratic Party all voted against the motion.
Opponents argued that an issue as serious as the supervised sale of cocaine should be completely left to the federal government, and not the city.
However, Bern’s Director of Education, Social Affairs and Sport, Franziska Teuscher called attention to the fact that the federal government only made the cannabis pilot project possible under pressure from the cities.
READ MORE: Swiss region to test legalising cannabis
The Bern city council narrowly rejected a near identical cocaine sale proposal, also by the AL, in May 2019.
The decisive factor at the time was the ‘no’ votes by the SP majority whose politicians found that a controlled cannabis sales trial should precede supervised cocaine sales.
After cannabis, cocaine is the most commonly used illegal drug in Switzerland. In 2017, 7 percent of people between the ages of 15 and 49 said they had used cocaine at least once in their life.
Cannabis pilot projects have since started in Basel, Zurich, and Lausanne. The city of Bern is expected to follow in autumn 2023, and Biel a few months later.