On 1st August, Switzerland joined other countries in Europe that have allowed medical cannabis patients to have easy access to their medication. Medical cannabis was legalized in Switzerland in 2008 but the new law took effect in 2011. Physicians were allowed to prescribe medical cannabis to patients by obtaining a special permit from the federal office of Public Health. Now, Switzerland has fully legalized medical cannabis and patients will be able to get their medication from a direct physician’s prescription, bypassing the federal office.
In June this year, the University of Geneva published a study evaluating the economic impact of legalizing cannabis in Switzerland. The legal industry in Switzerland is likely to generate $1.3 billion in yearly turnover and has the potential to create close to 4,400 full-time jobs.
Switzerland’s Federal Council has amended the Swiss Narcotics Act which was approved in parliament in March 2021 and hence lifted the ban on medical cannabis. Speaking to My Cannabis, the founder and CEO of Canna Trade Ben Arn expressed his satisfaction with the new law.
In addition, Swiss companies wishing to export medical cannabis commercially will be able to do so once they get the requisite authorization from the Swiss surveillance authority for medicines and medical devices – Swiss Medic.
Speaking about cannabis cultivation, Ben emphasized the importance of having patient associations pushing for home grow permission.
“From my side, I will always support the point of home growing, as this was my basic reason to start working as an activist 20 years ago: Every plant, and especially a plant like cannabis, should be allowed to grow in everyone’s garden,” he added.
According to the Federal Council, the demand for medical cannabis authorizations has spiked, prompting the council to reconsider the administrative burden and the resulting inefficiencies in the system. For example, in 2019, the FOPH issued about 30,000 medical cannabis authorizations for cancer, multiple sclerosis, and neurological diseases. This number does not include those that obtained cannabis from the illicit market; a proportion that’s also significant.
Recreational cannabis remains illegal in Switzerland, even though the possession of small amounts was decriminalized in 2012. It’s also important to note that medical cannabis in Switzerland should not exceed 1% THC. Things might soon be changing as the country recently rolled out a recreational use trial program. The objective of the program is to provide actionable information for regulating the adult-use market. The pilot program will be rolled out in Basel and will include 400 volunteers. According to Ben, this is “the best thing that is happening. We know (from Canada, Uruguay, etc.) that regulations bring a lot of positive aspects, and we know from many years of prohibition that this failed. But it’s the Swiss way to start something slow and steady. I support it whenever I can.”
Switzerland is pace-setting the European cannabis market, and following closely behind Germany which is working towards legalizing cannabis for recreational use. Malta was the first EU country to legalize recreational use last year. The small pockets of change are telling of a transcendental wave that’s about to take the European continent by storm.