Switzerland has put forward a proposal to make it easier for patients to get access to medical cannabis.
In order to do this, the government will lift the provision of the current narcotics law that bans the distribution of medical cannabis.
The Swiss government’s proposed legal amendment would then give doctors the ability to prescribe cannabis-based treatments directly to patients suffering from serious medical conditions like cancer. It would also put the cultivation, manufacture, processing, and sale of medical cannabis under the regulation of the Swiss Agency for Therapeutic Products or Swissmedic.
Swissmedic is the country’s drug regulatory agency.
If approved, the new legislation is expected to significantly boost access and create one of the newest regulated markets in Europe.
Medical cannabis in Switzerland
Cannabis is currently illegal in Switzerland. Swiss doctors can obtain a special license for their patients to use medical cannabis from the Federal Office of Public Health, with the allowance to prescribe the drug for only 12 months. Only patients with terminal or serious ailments can apply for an exemption to the law
prohibiting medical cannabis.
Moreover, cannabis tinctures and cannabis oil concentrates are the only forms of medical pot allowed and there are only two pharmacies in the entire country that have a permit to sell these to patients.
No more delays in the process
The proposed legislative amendment aims to get rid of the “tedious administrative procedure” that patients have to go through before getting access to medical pot. Authorities believe that these delays in processing are no longer appropriate considering the increasing number of applications.
Moreover, the amended law would pass on the responsibility for treatment exclusively to doctors.
In 2018, roughly 3,000 exemptions were issued to patients.
Consultations and evaluations
A public consultation period on the proposed amendment will be open until October 17, 2019.
Meanwhile, the Federal Office of Public Health will hold a separate evaluation to see whether the effectiveness of cannabis-based treatments can be proven to allow a mandatory cost reimbursement and for what indications.
At present, cannabis treatments are reimbursed only on a case-by-case basis. Reimbursement is granted after a patient’s case meets certain criteria, including whether alternative treatment options had been sought and whether these had failed.
Separate from recreational cannabis experiment
This proposal is separate from a push by the government to allow certain cities to experiment with recreational pot.
It can be recalled that 2016, four Swiss cities – Zurich, Geneva, Bern, and Basel – announced that they were establishing pilot cannabis clubs and coffee shops. The decade-long pilot project would allow up to 5,000 adults to use a variety of recreational cannabis products and gauge its use.
However, these pilot projects were rejected by the Federal Office of Public Health the following year. The health ministry maintained that there is no legal basis supporting the exceptions from the Swiss Federation’s Narcotics Act.