Could Switzerland Be the Next Country to Legalize Cannabis?
Published on 8/13/21
After months of lockdown and travel restrictions, the onerous weight of COVID-19 is slowly being lifted and the urge to hit the road or the skies and visit new places has rarely been stronger. For marijuana lovers, the idea of heading to a cannabis-friendly nation is especially alluring, and the abundance of countries that now allow, condone or have decriminalized marijuana use makes it easier than it has ever been. The tiny alpine nation of Switzerland is an incredibly beautiful place to spend some time. Its mountains, alpine lakes and world-renowned music festivals normally draw crowds throughout the year. If cannabis in Switzerland is legalized, the allure will only grow.
The European Union recently announced that travel restrictions on non-EU visitors will be eased this summer in an attempt to restart its pandemic-damaged tourist industry. Fully vaccinated travelers from the U.S. will once again be welcome in the Union's 27 member states, including non-EU members but associated countries Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
Is Cannabis Legal in Switzerland?
Cannabis in Switzerland is currently illegal, but it was decriminalized in 2012, and minor possession will only result in a fine if the police decide to enforce the law. The fine for possession of less than 10 grams is 100 Swiss Francs, which is approximately $110. Incarceration only enters the picture if a person is found possessing over four kg. of marijuana. Switzerland cannabis laws look set to change, though, because the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) recently released details about plans for a legalized supply of adult-use cannabis to be made available via a pilot scheme. This announcement was heartily welcomed by the approximately 500,000 thousand Swiss who use cannabis out of the country's total population of just eight million. The pilot scheme is already underway.
Swiss Cannabis Pilot Scheme
In September of 2020, the Swiss parliament passed regulations to initiate a five-year pilot scheme that allows for adult-use cannabis to be legally produced, imported and distributed to registered users. The cannabis must be grown by Swiss farmers and adhere to Swiss rules on organic farming. The goal of the trial is to gain insight on how the new rules will affect how cannabis is used for nonmedical purposes and the manner in which it affects the health of participants in the trial. The pilot scheme cannot affect public health, youth safety, public safety, or public order. It must have the following components:
- All points of sale must be pre-approved by the FOPH.
- The pilot scheme can provide cannabis to a maximum of 5,000 registered participants.
- The scheme can last up to five years with the possibility of being extended for a further two years.
- Initiators and managers of the pilot scheme must monitor the health of participants with the appointment of a certified doctor.
The cannabis used in the pilot scheme is also heavily regulated. No marijuana with over 20% THC can be used and no edibles or concentrate can contain over 10mg. of THC per unit of consumption. The standard rules on the packaging that we are familiar with in the U.S. also apply, child-proof with safety warnings and content information. Additionally, the cannabis must be grown in accordance with Good Agricultural Practices outlined by the European Medicines Agency.
Those wishing to participate in the trial must be able to prove they already consume cannabis and possess a certificate of participation in the scheme to be able to possess the marijuana.
The Swiss Cannabis Referendum
Governments can work in mysterious ways. To the joy of weed lovers across Switzerland, in early May of this year, with the pilot scheme already in motion, the Health Commission of Switzerland's National Council voted 13-11 in favor of federally legalizing cannabis for all adults. It was expected that any further debates or votes about adult-use recreational legalization would be put on hold until the results of the pilot scheme could be analyzed, but the Health Commission decided that due to the high rate of cannabis use in the country and the flourishing black market, a move to expand the current cannabis pilot program to include all Swiss adults was necessary. The results of the trial would not be completely available until its termination in five years, and that was considered too long to wait.
If the proposal is fully approved by the National Council, it will next move to the Council of States, the upper body of Switzerland's Federal Assembly. Several other countries in the EU (the Netherlands already has its own trials in operation) are looking at the Swiss model to see if it is successful. As it stands, all signs point to Switzerland legalizing cannabis use for recreational adult use sooner rather than later.
What do you think of Switzerland's cannabis pilot program? Share your thoughts in the comments.