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Switzerland Proceeds with Regulation of Cannabis Industry

According to Switzerland’s government agency in charge of public health and welfare, cannabis should no longer be banned but rather comprehensively regulated. This has given the National Council the responsibility of creating the necessary framework as well as for the development and maintenance of a integrated recreational and medical infrastructure. The first city to kick off this enchilada of cannabis will be the country’s largest and its capital of Zurich.

There are several issues at play here beyond regulating the industry at a national leve—a task in truth that has only been achieved by two countries to date (Uruguay and Canada). With a trial across the country, Switzerland supports all this. 

This is deliberately limited to 5,000 study participants per canton, but it will begin to create a “state-by-state” organization for the industry to grow. Participants will need to prove that they have used cannabis in the past. It shouldn’t be difficult to accomplish this. Around a third (33%) of Swiss have confessed to smoking cannabis. Around 200,000 people admit that they smoke regularly.

Cities will be able to conduct scientific studies—both on the economic impacts of a new industry as well as the impact of recreational cannabis sales (and accessibility) on a local level.

For quality assurance, local producers must apply for a Federal Office of Public Health Production Permit.

Participating members will have the option to buy cannabis at both pharmacies or social clubs.


This Development is Important for Switzerland:

There are currently three adult markets in Europe that are pending. Luxembourg is now moving more on time to set up the adult use market. Portugal, however, remains to be determined how that will work at a legislative level. Holland is another example of a federal regulatory scheme. However, the large coffee shops are still an independent entity.

However, the Swiss trial is fascinating for many reasons.

First, it promotes a domestic market for cannabis cultivation. Second, the Swiss market will also allow recreational use of high-THC cannabis. Beyond this, the Swiss market will begin to feature products not much seen in Europe to date—namely extracts and edibles. Even though it is an important next step, the EU will need to adapt on a regulatory front. 

However, relative freedom from EU regulations is an outlier that should not be overlooked. The other legalizing nations are also included. The DACH trade region will be expanded to include Austria and Germany, which are both legalizing states.

There has been a renewed sense of optimism after the recent national elections here. The CBD Front is just one of many legal issues that are currently being discussed. 

The hope is that decriminalization or a German recreational court will be possible.

The Swiss trial, in other words, may move a lot of levers on the reform front—and not just domestically.

But there’s another issue. Namely, if cannabis can be sold in pharmacies without a prescription, where does the line between “medical” and “recreational” cannabis lie?

Discussion on the GACP and GMP

Beyond extracts and edibles, perhaps the greatest impact the Swiss trial will have is to begin to define the line—starting with cultivation—between pharma grade cannabis and that bound for recreational markets.

This will be the first to show is indoor or outdoor cannabis cultivation. GMP cannabis cannot be grown outdoors. Due to the short growing season in Switzerland, most domestic cannabis for sale will be grown indoors.

However, Swiss cannabis will continue to be transported through the existing channels for pharma, food and cosmetics. The prohibition on novel food will be lifted (at least for the purpose of this trial).

It means there will now be an entire cannabis market baked, with no cannabinoid or other product left out.

This market is unlike anything in Europe, and is expected to grow beyond the borders of Switzerland. Namely, it is very likely that the “recreational,” high-THC market here may also finally defeat the Novel Food genie—and for all cannabinoids grown in the region, if not extracted in a way that is recognized as “normal” here too.

All of these factors make it likely that the Swiss cannabis trial is going ahead in Switzerland. It will show what’s possible.

The borders of the United States, as well as those states that are poised to undergo more reforms themselves, will be closely monitored.