In Switzerland there is only one view on cannabis and its possession. The plant is legal as long as it contains less than 1% THC. A higher level of concentration makes the product fall within the category of “narcotics” and possessing these substances is illegal under Article 19 of the Federal Act on Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances. The sale of CBD, on the other hand, is fully authorised, and this substance can be found in medications, food, cosmetics, chemical products, tobacco substitutes, and miscellaneous products, in compliance with specific legislation for each category.
Switzerland and Cannabis for All Uses
In 1995, industrial cannabis cultivation became legal in Switzerland and the laws limiting THC levels are still in force. Home growing is also allowed in observance of the same legal threshold for this psychoactive compound. Yet, it is hard to control each cannabis plantation and the THC levels of plants before obtaining a finished product. Regarding cannabis seeds and their use, Switzerland allows door-to-door delivery of seeds.
Medical cannabis is legal, and patients access this medication presenting a prescription signed by a doctor with a licence from the Federal Office of Public Health FOPH. The one of the following diseases must be diagnosed to access cannabis therapies: epilepsy, essential tremor or related diseases, cancer, muscle spasms and chronic pain.
Swiss authorities acknowledge not every patient is registered with the health system and the struggle to access high-quality medical cannabis. Additionally, the market price of cannabis is on the rise and the country does not want to miss this opportunity. This is why Switzerland has plans for large-scale studies on medical cannabis as well as adult-use cannabis sale trial programmes. A trial programme will be launched this summer, involving 400 volunteers who will be able to buy cannabis products and will be monitored to learn about the effects of this drug on their mind and bodies.
Changes in Consumption Trends
This trial is a joint project with the University of Basel and will take place in this northern Swiss city of Basel. The goal is to obtain data and provide information to fully regulate cannabis all across the country. Switzerland proposes an information-based consumer management model to reduce risks. Users must be knowledgeable about substances and their effects, and this study highlights the importance of the quality of cannabis. On many occasions, prohibition drives users to poor-quality cannabis, which may prove counterproductive. This trial will use high-quality cannabis supplied by organic growers.
This initiative, which hopes to obtain positive findings, will commence recruitment of volunteers in August 2022 and the trial will officially begin by the end of that month. Dr. Lavinia Flückiger, co-leader of this project, described the whole process the team had to go through to reach this point. The development of this idea began in 2016 and the project started in 2017, after obtaining approval by the local scientific ethics committee in 2017. Yet, the trial programme was halted due to the lack of a legal basis and the project was adjourned until 2021. An amendment to the Swiss narcotics law was key to give green light to this project and its trial programme.
Trial volunteers will have access to four cannabis varieties and two types of hash at selected pharmacies supplied by the Swiss company Pure Holding AG. The trial duration is set for two and a half years, and it will involve authorities and researchers from the local government, the University of Basel, and the University Psychiatric Clinics, Basel.
This project arises as a response to the new drug policy that prevails in Europe which Switzerland seeks to adopt. According to Swiss authorities, substance use must be tackled with prevention, therapy, and harm reduction.