Cannabis reform supporters in Switzerland, led by the group “Legalize It,” are stepping up their attempts at making cannabis fully legal. This means full reform, which not only includes the use of marijuana for medical treatment but also covers recreational use.
There is now a proposal on the table to fully legalize the substance, as well as to license – and naturally, to tax – the cannabis industry.
According to Legalize It spokesperson Nino Forrer, the ban on marijuana is wrong when viewed from a social perspective, as well as from a legal perspective. And when one looks at it from an economic point of view, it is “simply stupid.”
It can be recalled that in 2008, a proposal to legalize cannabis in the country failed at the polls, with 63% of the population saying they did not want to tax the drug and legalize it altogether. But it has already been some time since then and things have changed radically, both internally and internationally.
Swiss cannabis activists are counting on a new degree of political support at a federal level for something that is inevitably on its way across Europe. Switzerland could be the first test case in the continent for an experiment on taxed and fully legalized cannabis.
Many believe that an initiative to legalize and tax marijuana makes a lot of sense. The decision of the Swiss government on this front comes on the heels of Germany’s move in January 2017 to now cover cannabis under health insurance. However, the German government has signalled that it will be at least five years until recreational reform on a federal level will be considered.
If the proposal to legalize and tax cannabis is approved in Switzerland, this would be a good sign in the overall reform in Europe. While Spain and the Netherlands are already considered progressive in the cannabis sphere, their recreational markets are still not well-defined for a clear-cut legislative mandate. At least Germany, federally speaking, has already indicated a five-year “waiting” period.
In contrast, since 2011 in Switzerland, cannabis that contains up to 1% of THC can be sold and consumed legally. THC is short for Tetrahydrocannabinol, an active compound in marijuana that causes the feeling of “high,” inducing hallucinations, causing delusions, and changing the user’s thinking. As a result, the annual legal sales of low-potency marijuana have exceeded 100 million Swiss francs. This means a 25% tax income for the government.
Since 2011, a few shops got permits and sales started to grow. However, in the last quarter last year, the number of retailers registered to sell low THC cannabis increased from being a mere handful to 140. It is also worth nothing that since February this year, sales have boomed again when authorities required all cannabis products to carry health warnings, just like for tobacco. What’s even better is that the cannabis industry in the country is expected to generate an estimated $100 million in 2017, and with that, the state is going to reap $25 million in tax revenue. One can just imagine how much more profitable it would be for the government if this 1% potency limit is raised.
The Swiss, therefore, have a “proof of concept,” with the success of the country’s taxation model applied on low-THC pot. This proves that recreational cannabis reform can be profitable for the state.
If things turn out well for this higher THC reform, this could mean that Switzerland will have the first fully functional, compliant and taxed Euro market for recreational marijuana with more than 1% potency. Plus, Switzerland’s French and Germanic cultures could help drive additional legislative reform across at least two borders.