Tag: Switzerland

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Pilot Project In Switzerland To Import Cannabis From Canada?

Cannabis pilot programs are part of an interesting public policy concept that is springing up in Europe. Essentially, cannabis pilot programs provide for limited adult-use cannabis commerce in a designated area and research from the pilot programs provide insight to lawmakers for if/when they craft national cannabis laws and regulations.

A cannabis pilot program already exists in Copenhagen, Denmark and lawmakers there are trying to expand pilot programs to other cities in the European country. All cannabis for Copenhagen’s pilot program is domestically produced.

Two other European countries previously announced plans to launch their own pilot programs, the Netherlands and Switzerland, although both countries have experienced setbacks. For the pilot program in Basel, Switzerland specifically, domestic cannabis failing to meet stringent pesticide requirements has resulted in the program looking elsewhere to source it’s cannabis, particularly in Canada. Per SRF News:

Possibilities of importing hemp from neighboring countries were clarified. According to the health department, the focus was on Germany. But because no solution was found, the Basel company switched to imports from Canada. “Canada has individual suppliers who legally sell organic hemp products.”

The ball is now in the hands of the Federal Office of Public Health, which grants approval for the pilot test and must also approve the import. Investigations are ongoing. “Whether a possible import is eligible for a permit, we can determine if there is a corresponding application or after its examination,” says the Federal Office.

How cannabis is sourced for adult-use commerce is tricky, which is being demonstrated by the ongoing effort in Germany to legalize adult-use cannabis sales. Germany is reportedly going to source all of the cannabis for its eventual adult-use market domestically. Apparently lawmakers and regulators seem to feel that while cannabis can be imported and exported for research and medical use, it cannot be imported for adult-use sales.

What is being proposed in Basel is somewhat interesting, in that someone could make a strong argument that the cannabis is indeed for research purposes, albeit to research whether adult-use sales can be properly regulated at a local level prior to being regulated at a national level. Only time will tell if the request in Switzerland is granted, and if so, what it would mean for other pilot programs.


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Cannabis Extracts Safe And Effective In Dementia Patients Per Switzerland Study

Cannabis extracts are growing in popularity around the globe within the medical cannabis community for a multitude of reasons. For many years, cannabis flower was the most prominent form of medical cannabis, however, more and more patients are increasingly going the extract route.

For those that are not familiar, cannabis extracts are exactly what the name implies. They are products that are created as the result of processing cannabis flower via various methods to extract and concentrate cannabinoids from the flower.

The rise in use of cannabis extracts has been paralleled by new questions regarding whether cannabis extracts are safe for patients, both in the short and long terms. A team of researchers in Switzerland recently examined long term use of cannabis extracts among dementia patients, and the results of the study were insightful. Below is more information about it via a news release from NORML:

Geneva, Switzerland: The administration of plant-derived extracts containing a two-to-one ratio of CBD to THC is associated with behavioral improvements and few adverse side effects in dementia patients, according to data published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

A team of Swiss researchers assessed the long-term safety and efficacy of the adjunctive use of cannabis extracts in a cohort of dementia patients (mean age: 81 years). Participants received an average of 12.4 mgs of THC and 24.8 mgs of CBD per day for up to 13 months.

Investigators reported “marked improvements” in patients’ symptoms over the course of the trial, including reduced agitation. They reported “no problems related to the treatment and limited adverse drug reactions.”

They concluded, “A long-term THC/CBD (1:2) medication can be administered safely and with overall positive clinical improvement to poly medicated older adults with severe dementia and associated problems.”

The study’s results are similar to those recently reported in a placebo-controlled trial which determined that the sublingual administration of CBD-dominant plant extracts reduced agitation and improved sleep in dementia patients.

Full text of the study, “Cannabinoids for behavioral symptoms in severe dementia: Safety and feasibility in a long-term pilot observational study in nineteen patients,” appears in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.


geneva switzerland

Switzerland’s Cannabis Legalization Pilot Program To Expand To Geneva

Switzerland is following in Denmark’s footsteps by launching its first adult-use cannabis commerce pilot program. A little over two weeks ago legal cannabis sales were supposed to begin for adult-use purposes in Basel, Switzerland for the first time as part of a localized cannabis pilot program, although the launch was delayed and it’s unclear if sales have started, and if not, when they will start. Regardless, just as Denmark is seeking to expand its pilot program to other cities, Switzerland is planning on doing the same, with a pilot program now being announced for Geneva in 2023.

The Netherlands is another European country that is trying to launch adult-use pilot programs, although that effort has experienced a series of delays as we previously reported. Lausanne, Switzerland is also set to launch a pilot program in the near future.

A Slower Path To National Legalization

The goal of an adult-use cannabis commerce pilot program is to help national lawmakers and regulators gain insight into what works and what does not work at a local level when it comes to cannabis policy in order to be better suited to craft national policies. That may prove to be a two-edged sword in that it will likely ensure that national legalization happens eventually, however, it may also ensure that legalization does not happen in the near future, as the Switzerland pilot program itself was originally slated for a five year cycle, with a possible multi-year extension option for local jurisdictions.

A big question that I have, and I know I am not alone in wondering this, is will Switzerland scrap the pilot programs and go with full national legalization once Germany passes its own legalization measure and implements a robust, regulated adult-use industry? Or will it stay the course and wait at least five years after the launch of local pilot programs before taking action at the national level? Obviously, there is a tremendous opportunity cost involved if Switzerland waits too long to make the larger leap.

Expanding Pilot Programs

As of right now, there is no firm date for legalization in Germany, although legalization there does appear to be inevitable and it’s a question of ‘if’ not ‘when.’ In the meantime, it would be a great thing for Switzerland to expand its pilot program to as many cities as possible. After all, if every city in Switzerland was home to a pilot program, that would effectively legalize cannabis for adult use for many people, although there is a limited number of slots for each program so presumably there would still be a lot of people left on the outside looking in.

Pilot programs are a great short-term concept and absolutely better than outright prohibition. With that being said, they are also far inferior to national legalization, such as can be found in Canada, and lawmakers in Switzerland need to recognize that and push harder for wider reform. Cannabis prohibition is a failed public policy, including in countries that are home to adult-use pilot programs. Switzerland, Denmark, the Netherlands – they all ultimately need to ditch the piecemeal approach and move towards comprehensive national legalization.


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Switzerland Adult-Use Cannabis Pilot Program Delayed By ‘Quality Issues’

Switzerland has worked to launch a pilot adult-use cannabis program in various jurisdictions, including in Basel where the country’s first pilot program was set to launch today. A pilot program involves making cannabis commerce legal for adult-use purposes for some people in limited instances.

The goal of pilot programs, which are popping up in Europe, is to help countries gain insight into adult-use cannabis policies and regulations at a local level in order to be better suited to craft laws and regulations at the national level.

Denmark already has pilot programs in place and is working to expand pilot programs to more markets within its national borders. The Netherlands also has plans for launching a pilot program, however, that program has experienced a number of setbacks. Unfortunately, it appears that the pilot project in Basel, Switzerland is also experiencing delays. Per Swiss Info:

The ‘Weed Care’ experiment in the city of Basel was supposed to launch on September 15. But it has been put on hold because traces of pesticides were found in some of the supposedly organic plants.

Basel’s health department said on Friday that the delay could last several weeks or even months as products must now be analysed again by an independent body.

On one hand, it would obviously be nice to see the pilot program launching today. Yet, on the other hand, no one wants to consume tainted cannabis products, so a delay is warranted. It is worth noting that Switzerland has allowed the legal sales of low-THC cannabis products nationwide since 2017.

basel, Switzerland

basel switzerland

Recreational Cannabis Trial Begins Selecting Participants In Basel, Switzerland

The Swiss pilot project is due to begin on September 15, allowing 370 people to access cannabis and hash through legal means

“Weed Care,” the first cannabis legalization trial in Switzerland, is a mere fortnight from kicking off. The program, located in the Swiss city of Basel, is now in the process of selecting participants. Authorities will begin contacting successful applicants over the next few weeks. More people have already shown an interest in participating than slots allocated for trial participants. In fact, after online registration was launched last week, close to 600 people signed up.

No matter who is finally selected, residents of the city can continue to register on the website of the pilot project. Prerequisites are that participants must be over 18, not pregnant and can prove that they already use cannabis.

Four tested strains of cannabis flower and two strains of hash will be made available starting on September 15.

Background on Basel’s Cannabis Legalization Trial

The trial is intended to provide information about the extent to which legalization and a move away from the black-market influences’ consumer behaviour and impacts consumer health. Participants will be subject to checks by officials running the experiment.

The Basel city director of Health, Lukas Engelberger has already said that while he would prefer a no-cannabis use policy, prohibition has clearly failed. As a result, the goal of the study is to create a “minimally harmful” regulatory model to create a market which is safe.

Basel is one of five Swiss cities to embark on such a trial. The southern town of Lausanne appears to be the second municipality on track to implement the same – although it will create a trial about three times larger that consists of 1,000 people.

Medical cannabis use became legal on a federal basis in Switzerland as of the end of July. The government made amendments to the national Narcotics Act in May 2021 to allow such trials to proceed.

Could The Swiss Experiment Impact European Reform?

While there have been many naysayers on the German side of the border, it is very likely that the Swiss recreational cannabis trial is likely to influence cannabis legalization discussions in other countries. This does not mean that it will be a carbon copy. For example, in Switzerland, the first distribution of recreational cannabis will happen through pharmacies. That is unlikely to happen in Germany.

However, the idea of starting with limited home grow options as well as specific city trials, albeit not necessarily with limited participation, is very likely to be adopted across borders – potentially starting in places like both Germany as well as Luxembourg and Malta.


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Switzerland Legalizes Medical Cannabis And Allows Exports

The Swiss government has joined other European countries in fully legalizing medical cannabis for domestic use, and export

Switzerland is moving forward on its own path to full legalization. With a federal recreational trial pending, the country has now fully and formally legalized medical cannabis use. This has been achieved by amending the Swiss Narcotics Act to change the status of cannabis.

As a result, as of August 1, Swiss patients can obtain medical cannabis via a simple prescription from a regular doctor. Up until now, patients had to obtain special permission from the Federal Office of Public Health. The government has justified this new development by stating that the demand for authorizations has created a huge administrative burden and slowed down medical treatment.

There are currently about 3,000 authorizations for medical cannabis use in Switzerland, issued for patients suffering from cancer, neurological conditions, and MS. The authorization for exceptional use was authorized in 2019. Beyond this, there are an untold number of patients who have also obtained cannabis from the illegal market.

The Transition to Cannabis Normalization

The University of Geneva published a study in June that estimated that the economic impact of legalization in Switzerland would generate an estimated $1 billion in revenue and create about 4,400 full-time jobs. An earlier study published two years ago estimated that the value of the national cannabis market would be about half that.

Obviously, both figures are just guestimates. There is really no way to understand both recreational and medical demand until both are fully normalized.

The Impact on European Legalization

Switzerland is located in Europe but is not a member of the EU. Regardless, the steady progression here towards a normalized market has clearly helped drive the conversation elsewhere. This starts with Germany. However, it also includes countries like Malta, Luxembourg, and Portugal on the recreational side of the debate, and beyond this, Spain, Greece, Italy, and the Czech Republic on the purely medical side.

The path to legalization in Switzerland is also being achieved through a slow normalization of medical use while beginning a limited trial in key cities later this year.

As a result, it is obvious that the Swiss example will be studied and considered as other countries begin to make moves in this direction. One of the more interesting aspects of the same is that Switzerland has also effectively lifted some kinds of regulation that are applied to the industry elsewhere – including GMP and Novel Food. How this will work externally is another question as Swiss products are exported across international borders.

Regardless, the small steps Switzerland is making now will certainly forward the entire debate, both here, and in their immediate surroundings.

The future is increasingly now.


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Switzerland Consumes About 56 Tons Of Cannabis Annually

The European continent is undergoing a significant shift when it comes to cannabis policy, and in many ways, Switzerland is at the forefront of it. Low-THC cannabis products (less than 1%) have been legally bought and sold nationwide in Switzerland since 2017.

Switzerland is also one of a handful of countries in Europe that is home to a relatively new concept known as localized cannabis pilot programs. Essentially, the programs allow limited adult-use industries to operate in certain cities as part of a research program.

A team of researchers with the UNIGE and the consulting firm EBP recently conducted a survey looking at the economic impact of Switzerland’s current regulations and policies.

“The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) in coordination with the cantons of Geneva, Basel-Stadt as well as the cities of Berne and Zurich have financed a study that adds previously unavailable information to this discussion from an economic perspective.” the researchers stated.

One of the main findings of the study is that Switzerland consumes an estimated 56 tons of cannabis annually. As of 2020, Switzerland’s usage rate was estimated to be outsdie of the top 10 usage rates globally, and it will be interesting to see if these new estimates shift Switzerland’s ranking within the global community.

This recent study found that the cannabis industry’s ‘total gross value added’ to Switzerland’s economy was comparable to that of the nation’s production of cars and car parts, and that the cannabis industry’s workforce “is similar to the employment generated by the Swiss accident insurance.”

“The study comes precisely at the right time as the commission for social and healthcare issues of the national assembly has recently started a legislative proposal regarding the legalisation of cannabis. The results show that both the current illicit market as well as a liberal commercial market inflicts costs on the public while individuals generate big profits. We thus need a well-regulated market that ensures both protection for children and adolescents as well as health protection measure.” stated Adrian Gschwend, head of policy and implementation at the FOPH.

“During the heroin prescriptions in the 1990s the deciding element was the suffering of people which led to a public indignation and a discussion on the solution of the drama. Subsequently, evaluations led to a stabilisation of this policy approach. For cannabis policy the same elements are relevant even though the suffering was not visible for a long time. Only recently the public discussion has started to pay attention to the suffering caused by prohibition. This study does not specifically address the suffering and also does not show, which regulation is preferable from a moral point of view. Instead, it provides welcome and necessary information on the economic effects of current and alternate regulatory scenarios which will add a new quality to the legislative process on cannabis regulation.” stated Dr. Sandro Cattacin, Full Professor at the Department of Sociology of the University of Geneva.


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Swiss City Seeks 1,000 Volunteers For Recreational Cannabis Trial

The city, set to be the second after Basel, is gearing up for its pilot trial now on track for this autumn

Calling cannabis users in Lausanne! The government wants you for its first recreational cannabis trial.

A first in French-speaking Switzerland, the southern city will sell cannabis via a non-profit association located in the city centre. Called Cann-L, the project is currently being finalized and will require approval by the cantonal ethics commission.

The signup process is also not complete, but users can pre-register via an online signup form that asks the prerequisite questions. Eligibility includes being over the age of 18, that you live in Lausanne, and whether (and how often) you consume cannabis or cannabis products containing more than 1% THC. The organizers also want to know if you are breastfeeding.

Final selection will happen this fall, as the city launches the trial.

The Swiss Move Ahead – With Germany Close Behind

The Swiss will have five city trials underway before the end of the year. Other cities also moving towards launch this year include Basel, which just announced its own plans, as well as Zurich, Bern, and Geneva.

The impact of the national trial will be interesting to watch as it will be taking place in parallel to the launch of Germany’s new market – now expected to be authorized by the end of 2022 with implementation presumably within the next 18-24 months.

Given the fact that sources are confirming that the German government will set up a for-profit industry from the beginning, and even authorize special dispensaries for the same, the comparison between the two markets will be interesting to watch.

It is unlikely, however, that the German government will just pass legislation allowing limited trials. Statements coming out of Berlin over the last several weeks suggest that the Germans will go whole hog.

How this will impact the Swiss trials is another question – particularly as the participant numbers for Basel and Lausanne are low (only 1,400 participants between them).

Beyond this, of course, with an open border, it is not inconceivable that German products may start to end up in Switzerland. Legally or illegally.

As a result, it may be that the German decision to create a recreational market will completely overwhelm what appears to be a more measured, and limited progression of the issue in Switzerland.

One thing is for sure. Reform has come to the EU and the DACH region of the world. And may, beyond anything else, also finally flip Austria into the rec column too. Not to mention other countries now on the edge of recreational reform like Portugal.

It is going to be a fascinating 24 months in Europe for sure!


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Basel, Switzerland Becomes First Canton To Kick Off Recreational Cannabis Trial

The trial will allow up to 400 participants to buy their cannabis in pharmacies – in exchange for being study participants

Here is the great news. Switzerland is moving ahead with its recreational cannabis trial. The first canton to be approved by the federal government, Basel, will allow a very limited number of adults (over 18) to buy and consume cannabis legally, beginning in September.

Here are the other prerequisites. Participants will have to participate in a formal study over the next 2.5 years to determine the impact of consumption on their physical and mental health. Participants will also not be allowed to resell the cannabis they purchase. Anyone who does will be both penalized and ejected from the study.

Other municipalities, including Zurich, Geneva, and Bern all still have their applications pending – but are also expected to be given the green light in the near term.

According to official estimates, there are about 220,000 regular recreational cannabis users in Switzerland. This seems a bit low in a country of about 8.5 million people. Everywhere else, cannabis users represent about 10% of the population. However, other places, especially in North America, have not segmented out medical vs recreational users as their markets get going.

Only time will tell.

Medical cannabis is legal in Switzerland – however, just like in other places, it remains extremely expensive and hard to come by. Physicians must obtain special approval to prescribe and at present, there are only 2 pharmacies allowed to dispense it.

Why Does the Swiss Trial Matter?

For those used to legalization in other jurisdictions, the Swiss approach seems a bit limited and more than a lot complicated and bureaucratic. However, it represents, in its own way, an important step in Europe towards recreational reform, which has been fought if not delayed almost everywhere by authorities and politicians alike.

This trial will, undoubtedly, reveal what those in North America already know, albeit with less formal data to support it. Namely, those who consume cannabis are not criminals, couch potatoes, or drawn from the dregs of society.

Beyond this, however, a formal trial will begin to finally and definitively answer many of the questions if not counter persistent stereotypes that are still being thrown about by those who oppose the inevitable. Namely consuming cannabis is less harmful than alcohol, and those who consume other illicit drugs, along with prescription substances, tend to use less of these as they transition to cannabis.

Of course, the trial is also being avidly watched just about everywhere else in Europe where the question of legalization is a burning political issue, no matter how many people downplay its importance.

The data from the Swiss trial is also likely to show up in every debate going forward, starting with DACH trading partner Germany.

basel, Switzerland

basel switzerland

Switzerland Set To Launch Cannabis Pilot This Summer

Switzerland, in many ways, is at the forefront of cannabis policy. Since 2017, selling low-THC products (less than 1%) has been legal nationwide. Switzerland is also one of a growing list of countries in Europe that is set to launch an adult-use cannabis pilot program.

A cannabis pilot program essentially involves national governments letting local municipalities conduct legal cannabis commerce as part of a research program that seeks to gather information to, in theory, help national lawmakers craft their cannabis policies.

In addition to Switzerland, the Netherlands is also in the process of launching an adult-use pilot program, although the country’s pilot program has experienced ongoing setbacks. Copenhagen is home to a cannabis pilot program, and lawmakers in Denmark are seeking to expand the program to other jurisdictions.

News came out today that Switzerland will finally launch its first pilot program site this summer in Basel. Per DW:

Swiss health authorities on Tuesday approved the launch of a pilot project for the recreational consumption of cannabis in Basel this summer.

About 400 people in the city will be allowed to buy cannabis from select pharmacies in Basel in late summer, the city’s government said.

They will be questioned regularly about their usage pattern and physical and mental health.

Basel is home to a population of roughly 171,000 people, the fifth most populated city in Switzerland, so allowing only 400 people to participate in the program is essentially a drop in the bucket. However, every pilot program has to start somewhere, and for Switzerland, it will start in Basel.

While Basel is the first city in Switzerland to launch a pilot program, it will not be the last. Switzerland’s government has made it clear that it intends to allow pilot programs to operate in multiple cities, so long as the participants are teamed up with an accredited research organization, such as a university.

For more information about Switzerland’s cannabis pilot program, check out the Switzerland Federal Office of Public Health’s FAQ page.


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Switzerland’s Federal Court Decriminalizes Minor Possession Of Cannabis

The Federal Court of Justice has just ruled in favour of decriminalizing possession of up to 10 grams of cannabis

In a move that is well-timed – namely right before the new Swiss recreational cannabis trial begins, the Swiss Federal Court of Justice has decriminalized minor possession of cannabis. The ruling is in support of a District Court of Zurich decision in 2016 when a student refused to pay the fine for possessing 8 grams.

News moves quickly in the cannabis world these days. In Zurich, the City Council has already taken an official stance on decriminalization based on the court’s ruling.

Why Is This Important?

There are several reasons why this development is important.

The first is that supposedly, technically, and legally, this puts a damper on fines for minor possession, hopefully for the last time. The police were supposed to stop issuing fines four years ago. Despite this, the Zurich police at least have said they will still “report small quantities” even though individuals can now no longer be fined.

However, beyond this, the implications are major both domestically and right across the border, starting with the idea that a European country (even if not in the EU) will take steps to amend its national Narcotics Act. This in turn will provide a guide for (at least) Germany which will have to do the same thing as soon as it passes some kind of recreational reform.

Where Switzerland Goes…

While every country will implement cannabis laws in different strategies and time periods, one thing is for sure. Switzerland may be outside of the EU, but its evolving marketplace may well prove to be more of a template for other countries now moving towards cannabis legalization than either Holland (within the EU) or North American examples (the U.S. and Canada).

This is important for several reasons, starting with the fact that right over the border in Germany, there is already a fierce debate about the form that the German retail cannabis market may take. Switzerland’s approach, namely backing distribution into pharmacies and social clubs, may well in fact be a model that Germany also adopts, at least initially.

Beyond this, however, it is conceivable that at least German legislators may well take another page out of the Swiss legalization book – namely starting a recreational “experiment” rather than full boat market all at once.

No matter what happens in the coming months, however, Switzerland at least, is clearing the books of outdated laws, and becoming a model in this regard for countries in the EU to follow.


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