Cannabis is illegal in Switzerland. However, the possession of small quantities of the drug was decriminalized in 2012.
In 2016, four cities in the country – Zurich, Geneva, Bern, and Basel – stated that they were establishing pilot cannabis clubs and coffee shops. These pilot projects would have studied cannabis and gauged its use.
However, the pilot projects were shut down in November 2017 by the Federal Office of Public Health. The health ministry has maintained that there is no legal basis for such exceptions to be carved out of the Swiss Federation’s Narcotics Act. The health ministry pointed out that an “experiment paragraph” should be added to amend the Narcotics Act.
The following month, an absolute majority of the members of both the smaller and larger parliamentary chambers sought to change this ruling.
Smaller chamber approves bill allowing for cannabis trials and pilot projects
The Swiss Council of States, which is the smaller chamber of parliament and has 46 members, has just recently unanimously adopted a bill that allows cannabis studies and pilot projects in the country. The Council is pushing for an experiment article in the Narcotics Act that would make way for scientific research programs including trials of cannabis distribution under a coffee shop model that similar to that of the Netherlands.
According to MP Roberto Zanetti, who represents the Social Democrats, the future regulation of cannabis needs for scientific decision-making principles.
The bill will now advance to the National Council, which is the larger chamber of parliament and is made up of 200 members.
The two chambers of parliament make up the Swiss Federal Assembly. The Assembly meets in Bern, the capital city.
The City of Bern alone had requested to be allowed to carry out a cannabis pilot program several times before. Under the city’s proposed trial, 1,000 individuals who already use marijuana would be allowed to obtain it legally through pharmacies. This trial project would then be scientifically evaluated and the results would serve as basis for the country’s future cannabis policies.
This time, observers expect that the National Council will agree with the plans of the Council of States, at least partially. However, given the relatively narrow majority ratios in the National Council, nobody can be so sure.
Switzerland already widely tolerates cannabis
According to government estimates, 200,000 to 300,000 people in the country regularly use cannabis.
In 2012, the possession of up to 10 grams of cannabis has been decriminalized. Penalties for possession of small amounts vary among cantons, but in most of them, offenders are no longer punished.
Public consumption of cannabis, meanwhile, will subject offenders to a minor fine, usually 100 Swiss francs.
There are already numerous coffee shops that legally sell CBD-dominant cannabis flowers that contain less than 1% of THC. THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is the psychoactive component of cannabis and is what creates the high and the mind-altering effect of the drug. CBD or cannabidiol is the non-psychoactive component of cannabis and high-CBD products are mostly used for medical purposes.
The use of CBD is very widespread that the police Zurich started to use a rapid testing device that would determine whether a cannabis flower has low-THC level and is within legal limits or has high-THC level and is already considered illegal.
Under Swiss Federation law, any cannabis product with up to 1% THC is considered as legal fiber hemp. With its 1% THC limit, Switzerland already has a higher threshold compared to the rest of Europe, the United States, and Canada – where the upper limit for legal hemp products is only 0.3% THC. And because Switzerland is not part of the European Union, the country is free to set its very own cannabis policies.