Legal cannabis in Switzerland - kick-off for the pilot project

05.01.2022 by Matthias

The pilot project for the legalization of cannabis starts!


Around 220,000 people in Switzerland consume cannabis at least once a month. Every third adult has already made acquaintance with marijuana or hashish. Two-thirds of the inhabitants of Switzerland agree to legalization. A parliamentary initiative is now to be used as part of a pilot project to examine what effects the legalization of cannabis products will have on the population - and what measures, above all, can be used to ensure the protection of minors. Will the ban on marijuana and hashish now be overturned - or will inconsistent prohibition remain in the future?

The status quo


The rules surrounding the prohibition of cannabis products in Switzerland are not always logical. For example, cannabis products with a THC content of one percent or more are prohibited. Hashish, the flower resin of the cannabis plant, on the other hand, is prohibited regardless of the THC content. Preparing a maximum of 10 grams of weed for one's own consumption, however, is legal, as is dispensing a maximum of 10 grams to another adult person. Here, however, only the delivery is actually allowed. As soon as money is involved, the delivery is considered a sale. And is therefore prohibited. Private hemp cultivation is allowed in Switzerland as long as the THC content of the plants is below one percent. Hemp flowers, drops or creams with a THC content below one percent are also allowed. However, one should avoid getting caught in a traffic control after consumption - because there is zero tolerance for THC in the blood at the wheel. A whole lot of quite arbitrary regulations that (still) await friends of cannabis consumption in Switzerland.

The pilot project - An important step towards legalization.


The use of cannabis products is widespread in Switzerland - just like in the rest of Europe. Consumers are forced to buy weed and co. on the black market, which does not guarantee the safety of the users. Strict bans won't get us anywhere here - Parliament has also recognized this. The pilot project for the controlled distribution of cannabis products to adults is now intended to examine what new regulatory approaches can be created for dealing with cannabis products. According to the FOPH, the aim of the pilot project is to learn more "about the advantages and disadvantages of controlled access to cannabis and to obtain a sound scientific basis for possible decisions on regulating the handling of cannabis." The pilot project will research:

  • How the use of cannabis products for pleasure purposes affects the mental and physical health of users
  • How the quality of cannabis products to be purchased can be strictly controlled
  • Whether the flourishing black market can be dried up by a release

The status of legalization in Germany


While the Confederates are taking an evidence-based look at possible legalization, things are a bit different in Germany, the country's immediate neighbor. "Because alcohol is dangerous, cannabis is not broccoli," is the somewhat idiosyncratic opinion of the German government's former drug commissioner, Daniela Ludwig. "Cannabis is banned because it is illegal" was probably the most famous statement of her predecessor Marlene Mortler. Assertions instead of evidence: For decades, the Federal Republic pursued a strict prohibition of cannabis products; even the possession of small amounts could and can be punished with harsh penalties, depending on the federal state. Nevertheless, almost four million Germans regularly consume cannabis products - the number of unreported cases is probably much higher. With the change of government in September 2021, there finally seemed to be some movement on the issue. All parties involved in the governing coalition agreed: cannabis products should be legalized for consumption. However, after half a year, nothing has happened yet. "Currently, there are more important issues for us than legalization," said a spokesperson for the federal government. In combination with an extremely tough legislative process, a timely legalization in Germany is therefore not to be expected for the time being. Pilot projects around the release are also not planned. Instead, the Germans are relying on increased education of children and young people and strict regulations around the advertising of cannabis products.

Here's how the organization of the pilot trials will work.


Pilot trials for the controlled dispensing of cannabis products can be conducted by private and public organizations. However, a recognized research institute must always be involved and a permit must be obtained from the FOPH. Before submitting the application, the respective cantonal and municipal authorities must be contacted and aspects relating to the protection of minors and the protection of public order and safety must be clarified. Furthermore, the following restrictions must be taken into account:

  • The pilot tests are to be limited locally to one or more municipalities
  • The duration is limited to five years, but can be extended once for a maximum of two years
  • The number of participants must not exceed 5000 persons per pilot trial
  • When setting the retail prices of cannabis products, care must be taken to ensure that the price increases depending on the THC content
  • The sales price may not be significantly lower than the "local black market price"
  • However, the selling price must also not be significantly higher than the black market price

What cannabis products may be sold as part of the pilot?


Both unprocessed cannabis products, such as the flowers, and processed products, such as hashish or cannabis extracts, may be sold under the pilot. Products mixed with additives may also be officially dispensed. To ensure that the health of participants is protected in the best possible way, strict requirements apply to the quality of the products on offer. For example, whenever possible, cannabis products should come from organic farming and must not contain any contaminants that pose a health risk, such as pesticides. Important to know: No tax will be levied on the cannabis products sold as part of the pilot trials! According to the FOPH, taxing cannabis products "in the context of a scientific trial [...] is not appropriate and would prejudge any definitive regulation."

What are the requirements to grow cannabis for pilot testing?


In order to ensure the high requirements for the quality and safety of cannabis products, it is imperative that the requirements of the executive order be taken into account as part of the cultivation process in accordance with the BetmPV. The requirements include cultivation in accordance with organic farming regulations. In addition, an exemption permit must be obtained from the FOPH for cultivation and production. Interested growers, producers, and manufacturers must contact an organization conducting the pilot trial in advance. A list is maintained at the FOPH where interested growers and producers can register.

Who may participate in the pilot projects?


All Swiss citizens who are of legal age and capable of judgment may purchase and consume cannabis products as part of the pilot trials. A prerequisite for participation is that the test persons can prove that they already consume cannabis, agree in writing to the conditions of the scientific study and have their residence in the canton in which the pilot test is also carried out.

Are there any restrictions regarding the consumption of the cannabis products?


All participants in the pilot trials may use the acquired cannabis products for personal use only. Both distribution to third parties and consumption in public spaces are strictly prohibited.

Conclusion


With the pilot tests around the legal consumption of cannabis products, Switzerland is taking a (still) unique special path in Europe. The pilot tests are intended to create "a scientific basis for future legal regulation", according to the FOPH. Unlike in Germany, the pilot trials will create a real data basis - and not a policy based on conjecture and prejudice. It will be interesting to see what results will emerge from the pilot tests in a few years' time.