The Swiss on Sunday voted overwhelmingly against legalizing heroin and other narcotics, apparently heeding government warnings that the proposed law would turn their pristine Alpine nation into a drug haven.
With all ballots counted, 74% voted against a constitutional amendment that would make legal “the consumption, cultivation or possession of drugs, and their acquisition for personal use.”
In favor were 26%, or 454,404 people.
Last year, the Swiss were the first in the world to vote overwhelmingly in favor of state distribution of heroin to hardened addicts.
“The outcome shows that the Swiss population rejects extreme solutions to the drug problem,” said Felix Gutwiller, a pioneer of the heroin distribution program.
The government opposed the plan, saying it was a health risk and would turn Switzerland into a haven for drug tourists and traffickers. It said the current policy of helping hard-core addicts while clamping down on dealers was best.
Church groups, police chiefs, social workers, doctors and other professionals working with addicts held similar views.
No other European nation, not even the Netherlands, has legalized the possession or sale of any drugs or has plans to do so.
The pro-legalization lobby--a loose left-wing coalition that gathered the necessary 100,000 signatures to force a referendum--claimed it would stamp out trafficking and the black market.
Backers hoped that a large turnout in their favor would persuade the government to relax laws on soft drugs like marijuana.
Francois Reusser, from the pro-legalization lobby, blamed the scale of the defeat on the fact that the proposed law included both hard and soft drugs.