Starting on August 1, Switzerland’s medical cannabis law will officially launch. This news is the result of the amendment of the Swiss Narcotics Act, which the Federal Assembly (also referred to as the Swiss parliament) nearly a year-and-a-half ago. The medical cannabis ban was lifted by the Federal Council in June.
As of August 1, medical cannabis patients will be allowed to get prescriptions directly from their medical practitioners, rather than requiring permission from the Switzerland Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH). The amendment also allows for the exportation of medical cannabis, as long as authorized companies seek out approval from Swissmedic, which is responsible “authorization and supervision of therapeutic products.”
In a press release, the Federal Council stated that demand prompted the change due to increased demand. In this translation “BAG” is an abbreviation for Bundesamt für Gesundheit, or the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health.
“Up to now, cannabis for medicinal purposes has not been allowed to be cultivated, imported or processed into preparations without an exceptional permit. Treatment of patients with cannabis medicinal products that were exempt from authorization was only possible with an exceptional permit from the BAG and only in justified cases,” the Federal Council said in a translated press release. “The demand for such permits has increased in recent years. This is administratively complex delays treatment and no longer corresponds to the exceptional character provided for by the Narcotics Act. The Federal Council has therefore presented Parliament with an amendment to the law to remove the ban on cannabis for medical purposes, which was passed in March 2021. A narcotic prescription will still be required for such drugs.”
Currently, Switzerland will only allow CBD products with less than 1% THC, and recreational cannabis will remain illegal. However Switzerland is on track to launch its cannabis pilot program out of Basel, located in the northern part of the country in a partnership with the University of Basel, its psychiatric clinics, and the local government.
The program will allow approximately 400 people to purchase cannabis for recreational consumption sometime in September, according to an announcement from April 2022. Over the course of two-and-a-half years, participants will answer questions regarding mental and physical health. For the use of this study, cannabis will be provided by Pure Production.
Additionally, a study called “Züri Can – Cannabis with Responsibility” has been nearing final approval, with the goal of examining the effectiveness of medical cannabis. The study was initially announced in September 2021, and on June 28 researchers confirmed that they had sent their application to the FOPH and the Cantonal Ethics Committee. There’s currently a waitlist for people interested in this study, with a total of 2,100 participants allowed.
Other recent studies confirm that the demand for cannabis is continually rising. A study conducted by the University of Geneva’s Department of Sociology and a consulting company called EBP Switzerland, entitled “Economic effects of current and alternative regulation in Switzerland,” found that cannabis legalization could be valued at $1.03 billion and bring 4,400 jobs to the country. Adrian Gschwend, Head of Policies and Implementation at the FOPH, explained the essential timing of this data. “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,” Gschwend said, according to MyScience.com. “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[s].”