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Cannabis Progress Emerges in Switzerland

Ed Knight

By Ed Knight

April 20, 2022

Basel will inaugurate Switzerland’s pilot cannabis project, with authorities there on Tuesday signing off on the city’s plan to allow several hundred people to purchase pot for recreational use this year. 

The decision makes Basel the first Swiss city approved under the country’s program that took effect last May, after lawmakers passed an amendment to the Federal Narcotics Act permitting pilot trials for the sale of marijuana for “non-medicinal purposes” in order to “create the basis for the future legal regulation.”

According to local Swiss media, other cities such as Geneva, Bern and Zurich have also applied to participate in the pilot trials. 

The Associated Press reports that almost “400 participants will be able to buy various cannabis products at selected pharmacies in Basel” as part of a two-and-a-half year study beginning this summer. Over the course of that study period, the participants, aged 18 and older, “will be questioned regularly on their consumption of the substance and on their physical and mental health,” according to the Associated Press.

The Swiss government says that the trials “can be conducted by private or public organisations such as universities, local authorities, research institutes, associations or foundations,” but that a “recognised research institute must be involved in each pilot trial.”

Those interested in participating in the pilot trials must sign up through the organizations or institutions running that city’s program. The Federal Office of Public Health in Switzerland will not be administering the trials.

According to the Associated Press, Basel’s project “involves the local government, the University of Basel and the city’s University Psychiatric Clinics.”

Recreational cannabis use is currently prohibited in Switzerland. In 2020, the Swiss parliament approved an amendment to the Federal Act on Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances (NarcA), which provided “a legal basis for conducting scientific pilot trials with cannabis that are limited in terms of both time and place.”

The amendment will be in effect for the next 10 years. 

Pilot Trial in Switzerland Focuses on Science

The country’s Federal Office of Public Health says the purpose of the trials “is to increase knowledge of the advantages and disadvantages of controlled access to cannabis, and to provide a sound scientific basis for possible decisions on the way the approach to cannabis is regulated.”

“Growing, importing, producing and selling cannabis is prohibited in Switzerland. Despite this ban, consumption is widespread, the black market is thriving, and users’ safety is not guaranteed,” the agency explained in a fact sheet detailing the pilot trials. “In view of this unsatisfactory situation, parliament decided to amend the Narcotics Act (NarcA) to create the possibility for a limited period of ten years to test the impact of new regulatory approaches to the way cannabis is handled. The new legislation allows pilot trials to be conducted on non-medical cannabis use in adults. The aim is to provide a sound scientific basis for possible decisions on the design of cannabis regulation.”

Under the terms of the pilot trials, the government says that participants “will be able to legally purchase various cannabis-based products, the quality of which will be highly regulated,” while also “receiving product information, participants will be made aware of the risks of cannabis consumption by staff at the points of sale who will be trained accordingly.”

Every part of the supply chain, “from seed to product distribution, will be monitored and strictly controlled,” Swiss officials say, adding that the trials “are subject to strict requirements in terms of the protection of minors and health protection, and a total ban on advertising.”

The participants will be subject to strict rules, with the government saying they are barred from passing the products onto non-participants and from consuming the cannabis in “publicly accessible places.”

Ed Knight

About The Author

Ed Knight

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