Over-the-counter pot

I did a double take. I didn’t trust what I was seeing. I certainly didn’t trust my French. I stopped. I asked. And yes, I was right. It’s now legal to buy cannabis in a shop in Geneva. And not just a head shop, a shop that sells other stuff, too. Stuff like newspapers and chocolate.

That said, the THC content is pretty low in what you can buy legally. High Times has an interesting article on the topic. But the CBD content is pretty high. And there’s a difference. In Switzerland, you can now buy cannabis with low-grade THC and high-grade CBD… not such good news for recreational users looking for a high, but good news for those wanting to use CBD to treat, say anxiety or pain.

There is an argument for what’s called the entourage effect, i.e., using both THC and CBD together, as the latter ‘has calming and uplifting properties that can reduce the mental effects’ of the former.

I hadn’t figured Switzerland for being that liberal, but perhaps it’s not liberalism that’s in question here. I was surprised. I’m still surprised. But hey, it’s been a few years since I’ve been here. [I was proposed to when I visited for the second time back in 2010 – fond memories.] I knew it was legalised in some form or fashion but it wasn’t so blatantly on sale. Things were bound to change.

What hasn’t changed is the lake view. I love the idea of having a massive lake (224 sq miles/580 sq km) in the middle of a city. Who needs pot when you have that sort of calm on your doorstep. An interesting fact for the trivia heads among you is that 60% of Lake Geneva is in Switzerland with the rest being in France. And while it’s always been Lake Geneva to me, the French might know it as Lac Léman or Lac de Genève; the Germans as Genfersee; and the Italians as Lago Lemano or Lago di Ginevra.

Perhaps the focal point of the lake from the city-side, is Jet d’Eau – the tallest fountain in the world. Built back in 1886 to release excess pressure from the a hydraulic plant at La Coulouvrenière, it pumps 500 litres of water per second to a height of 140 meters (460 feet). It’s impressive. And it hasn’t changed.

The shops are still epicentres of designer brand names. While shoppers in Dublin might get to sport a shopping bag from M&S or BTs, here it’s serious labels. There appears to be no shortage of money to spend and prices are steep. I paid the equivalent of €10 for a coffee and a water in a streetside café that was nothing to write home about. I’m still reeling. But with 10% of the working population involved in International Geneva – diplomats, NGO, international organisations – per diems help keep the retailers happy. [And an aside – if you’re in the city, visit the UN – take the tour.]

It’s that transience that would turn me off living here. It’s beautiful. The food is great. The choice expansive. It’s the seat of movers and shakers who steer a course for the world via policy and politics. There’s a vibe, a sense that things are happening, that people are doing, that stuff is getting done. But yet there’s a transience that says that so many people, while here physically, are still at home mentally. For me, that sense of ordinary, everyday presence is missing.

But take a train and travel just 15 minutes outside the city, to the villages and towns that form the ‘burbs, and you can find that sense of community, albeit multinational. The municipality of Versoix is the last in the Canton of Geneva, on the road to Lausanne. It consists of a series of villages and I think I was in Versoix-Bourg or maybe it was Versoix – lac – I couldn’t swear to it. It was whichever is home to the fab town all, Mairie de Versoix – a stately home that I wouldn’t mind at all having as an address.

But more of note that the crazy painted apartment buildings, or the strange cut-outs in windows, is the cooperative sailing club. Some 250 members pay an annual membership fee and get to sail the club’s 15 boats. They have to certify to sail and courses are provided. They can then book time on one of the various boats the cost of which is covered by their annual 300 CHF subscription (about the same in dollars and euro). Maintenance is carried out by members who work on keeping the boats in good shape. You can sail and socialise or just do one or the others. A brilliant idea for sailing enthusiasts who don’t have rich friends with boats or the wherewithal to rent a craft for a day elsewhere.

With the lake to the front and well-established forest to the rear, the village is one place in Geneva I might just consider living. Were I in the money….