The proposal from Mayor Siegfried Nagl (ÖVP) is a direct challenge to the amended National Narcotics Act, which says people caught with small amounts of cannabis should be provided treatment from the health department rather than be punished.
Nagl says that these amendments, which will come into effect on January 1, will cause administrative headaches while not curbing “a single dealer”, adding: “The law is bad, it is bureaucratic and will incur costs.”
By administering on-the-spot fines and confiscating the drugs instead, Nagl said, the city could curb “open dealing on the benches, parks and streets” and “the dealer then has no business”.
If the Mayor's suggestion is implemented, it would mean possession of minor amounts would be removed from criminal law and placed under administrative law instead.
Eighty percent of the 872 cases in Graz in 2014 that fell under the Narcotics Act were related to cannabis and a total of 80 kilograms was seized that year. In 2015 so far, 40 kilograms have been confiscated.
Nagl's plans received support from the head of Graz police Werner Jud, who said: “Firstly for the consumer there is a consequence of having to pay a fine. Now the legal proceedings for the state prosecutor would be refunded. The consumer has the right to defer the proceedings if it is the first time they have been caught and if nothing else happens in the next one to two years the case will be dropped.”
The alternative proposal was criticised by Green city councillor Lisa Rücker who is not convinced it would deter dealers.
“The presumption that an administrative penalty would change something on the black market is unrealistic I think,” she said, although she conceded that it is good the ÖVP are considering how to best use resources when dealing with cannabis use.