Vice Squad
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
Pilotless Plane Nabs Pot Smokers

A generous reader brought Vice Squad's attention to this story of two Swiss pot smokers being identified by an infrared camera on a spy drone aircraft. I thought at first that it must be a hoax, but that appears not to be the case, alas:
Zealous Swiss soldiers called the police when the infra-red camera of a pilotless spy aircraft they were testing showed an image of two civilians smoking cannabis, a newspaper said on Sunday, adding that the incident had prompted a protest in the country's parliament.
The newspaper Le Matin Dimanche said police turned out with screaming sirens and arrested the smokers after they were tipped off to the incident near the central city of Lucerne late last month.
Not surprisingly, the Swiss Defense Minister defended the actions of the soldiers who alerted the cops. More surprising and even scary, to the reader who e-mailed about the story as well as to me, is the extent to which the Defense Minister justified all behavior by informants: "'When one is serving one's country, one is also a citizen, and a citizen has a duty to denounce whatever seems abnormal,' he told parliament..." Hmmm, I see something abnormal more-or-less continuously. ("Hello officer, Jim here, just wanted to let you know that the University's e-mail system seemed to work fine during finals' week; also, I did my laundry today, and none of my clothes were ruined.")

In a further blow to Swiss cannabis consumers, Parliament voted against decriminalizing marijuana and hashish on Monday. Sounds like they'll be needing a lot more drones: "With an estimated half a million regular or occasional cannabis users -- many of whom smoke publicly in parks, clubs or on ski lifts -- in a nation of 7.3 million people, campaigners say it is time for the law to catch up with reality."

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