There are two proposals on the table in Switzerland: one is to allow prescribing cannabis. The other, a pilot program to test reational consumption.

Switzerland to legalize prescribed cannabis and consider recreational use

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Benito Díaz

Switzerland has something to celebrate. Two proposals open the way to the tide of liberalisation that is shaking the world. This month we learned that the Swiss parliament studies regulating both therapeutic and recreational use of cannabis.

There are two proposals on the table: one is to allow prescribing cannabis to treat people who suffer cancer or other serious diseases. The other is a pilot program to test new laws that would allow recreational consumption.

Therapeutic cannabis

Thursday February 28th, the Federal Office of Public Health presented to the Federal Parliament a bill to amend 1951’s law that forbids consuming cannabis.

The proposal makes it possible for doctors to prescribe cannabis directly as part of the treatment”, the Swiss government informed through a press release. “The biggest obstacle for automatic refund (i.e. including cannabis in the health system) is that scientific evidence of its efficacy is not strong enough yet and the conclusions of existing studies are sometimes contradictory”.

The growing and processing of medicinal cannabis, as well as the selling, would be possible under a regulated system”, asserted Swissmedic, the drug regulation agency in the country.

The effficacy of cannabis in treating neuropathic and oncological illnesses has been proven in different studies, for instance, the ones of Professor Guzmán, or the promising studies on animals by Professor Carlos Goicoechea, related to pain control with cannabinoids.

The Swiss Federal Health Office will launch an evaluation project, in order to answer some questions, opening an answering period that will last until next October. A questionnaire will be handed to selected people suffering from severe illnesses, in order to find out whether the drug is efficient and in what conditions, said the official release.

Recreational cannabis

Marijuana is one of the banned substances most consumed in the Swiss black market and has undergone a huge growth in the last few years. Despite being prohibited, more than 20.000 people in Switzerland consume cannabis, according to data managed by Reuters.

Nowadays, it is possible to obtain marijuana in large supermarkets in Switzerland, but with a THC percentage equal to or lower than 1%. Also, since 2013, people caught with a lower amount than 10 grams of marijuana only face an administrative penalty of 85 euros, a smaller fine than you would get in Spain, for instance.

Considering the current development of consumption and number of consumers in Switzerland, the Federal Parliament has decided to approve a test in order to examine what the consequences of regulating recreational cannabis would be. Already in 2018, Chancellor of Switzerland Walter Thurnherr claimed that black market “is flourishing and we can’t guarantee the consumers’ safety given that there is no quality control”.

The pilot project would start by selecting groups of adults who are proven consumers. According to the bill presented, the selected group would not exceed 5.000 people, but it is not clear whether this number refers to each village or canton or the total for the nation. The selected people would be granted a special permit to consume cannabis. The participants would have the right to purchase a limited amount of the plant, up to 10 grams a month of THC, according to the Federal Office, as seen in the Government’s official website.

The research could take up to five years and it would be limited to certain towns that have shown interest in these pioneer projects, like Zurich, Geneva or Basel. Once over, the analysis of the results would determine the decision between regularization measures or just softening the existing prohibition laws.

Two measures for regulation of cannabis that feel like fresh air for the Helvetic consumers. Winds of freedom for a country that joins Portugal, Czech Republic and, soon, Luxembourg.