Switzerland’s new cannabis pilot program can create new opportunities for the industry.
Following a 2020 parliamentary resolution, Switzerland has started allowing recreational cannabis for adults in controlled substances in May 2021. Recreational cannabis trials are expected to begin in the Summer of 2022 . Outside of the program, recreational cannabis use in Switzerland remains illegal. However, medical cannabis access is being improved. While many European nations are considering the legalization of recreational cannabis, Switzerland is still conservative on the matter. It might be a while before Switzcannabis licenses become accessible like in Canada. The Swiss pilot program may grant some limited opportunities to get a Swiss cannabis cultivation license, but requires growers to work with program organizers and Swiss regulators. Continue reading for a comprehensive guide to help you become a licensed cannabis producer in Switzerland.
Current Regulation of Cannabis in Switzerland
Right now it is totally legal to cultivate hemp in Switzerland. People looking to get a cannabis cultivation license can only do so through new pilot programs. There aren’t notable pathways to licensing in the Swiss medical marijuana market because that program is extremely limited. Here is an overview of the current state of cannabis in Switzerland.
Medical Marijuana in Switzerland
Historically, medical cannabis is extremely and surprisingly limited. “Currently, only one narcotic cannabis drug preparation is officially approved for medical use in Switzerland. …only two pharmacies in the country can dispense tinctures and oil concentrates to those with serious or terminal illnesses. Flower or resin are not available as medical cannabis .” Recently, a High Times article announced that medical cannabis access in Switzerland is undergoing a renovation . An amendment to the Swiss Narcotics Act was approved in March of 2021. This change will make it easier for patients to get access to medical cannabis by streamlining the prescribing process. However, the term “medical cannabis” still only applies to products with less than 1% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The only approved medical cannabis preparation in Switzerland is Sativex.
Hemp in Switzerland
Swiss hemp laws are very liberal. In fact, most Swiss regulations use the word ‘cannabis’ to refer to hemp. Still, up to 1% THC is allowed, which is five times the 0.2% THC limit most European nations enforce . Hemp and CBD products are widely available and are commonly sold at Swiss tobacco stores. While hemp is touted as “legal cannabis,” it does not have the same effects as marijuana. Mainly, at 1% THC, some people may catch a bit of a buzz, but it will not get a person high.
Recreational Cannabis in Switzerland
Adult recreational cannabis use has been heavily decriminalized in Switzerland . They consider personal possession of fewer than 10 grams of cannabis to be negligible and not even subject to a fine. It is also very popular with an annual cannabis use rate of 8.7% and a projected market value of 1.2 Billion Swiss Francs. However, all current marijuana in Switzerland comes from illicit sources. A limited pilot program has begun to evaluate the impacts and potential for the legalization of recreational cannabis in Switzerland.
Switzerland’s Cannabis Pilot Program
In 2019, the Swiss government approved a pilot project to study the economic and health impacts of non-medical cannabis use. The plan starts on May 15, 2021, and will run through May 2031 [2, 3]. The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) is overseeing the limited 10-year pilot program. The recreational cannabis pilot schemes are requested by public or private entities with the participation of research institutes, local authorities, and FOPH approval. They must have specific research goals such as acquiring data on the socio-economic effects of cannabis legalization or other scientific goals.
Pilot programs have to be limited to a specific municipality and each may run for five years with a two-year extension option. They are allowed up to 5,000 participants that must be monitored by appointed physicians. Participants in the Swiss recreational cannabis pilot schemes must prove that they live in the area the pilot is authorized for and must also prove they are currently a consumer of (illicit) cannabis.
Swiss Cannabis Pilot Program Seeks Cannabis Club Volunteers
On September 17, 2021, BusinessCann reported on the latest development in Switzerland’s cannabis pilot program. “Züri Can – Cannabis with Responsibility” is the program that will recruit volunteers in Zurich, Basel, Bern, Lucerne, and Geneva. The government partnership with Psychiatric University Clinic Zurich and the Zurich Pharmacy Network will allow volunteers to obtain cannabis for recreational adult use from pharmacies and cannabis clubs.
The Swiss recreational cannabis pilot aims to determine the best course for regulation and distribution, study the effects of adult cannabis use, monitor volunteer’s health, and observe their consumption habits. The Federal Office of Public Health will issue production permits to cannabis growers to supply the pilot program. Producers will be held to strict quality standards following field trials conducted in 2020. A variety of THC and CBD products will be available to pilot participants. Switzerland has a well-established black market for cannabis, so regulators are highly motivated to move recreational cannabis legislation forward and displace dangerous black market cannabis products.
Cultivating Cannabis in Switzerland for Pilot Program Use
Cannabis users in the Swiss recreational cannabis pilots are limited to just 10mg THC per month and products cannot contain more than 20% THC . The program participants purchase cannabis products from pharmacies or other dispensing sites that have been authorized by the program. Cannabis flower, extracts, isolates, and edibles are all allowed to be manufactured and sold within the scope of a pilot scheme.
If you are interested in cultivating cannabis in Switzerland for the pilot schemes, you can register your interest with the FOPH but will need to partner with organizers of a specific pilot program in order to get a license to cultivate cannabis in Switzerland . If a program organizer is looking for a cultivator, FOPH supplies them with a list of companies that have registered their interest. All cannabis must be grown organically, as defined by Swiss law. Cannabis growers in Switzerland must also comply with Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) set out by the European Medicines Agency.
Final Thoughts on Cannabis Cultivation in Switzerland
If you are looking to grow marijuana, there are many challenges to getting licensing for cannabis in Switzerland with the pilot program. You’ll need to be prepared to meet the hefty regulatory requirements of GAP. GrowerIQ understands these challenges and can help your cannabis cultivation business succeed with its revolutionary seed-to-sale software and consulting services. GrowerIQ offers cultivators the software infrastructure and quality assurance tools like standard operating procedures (SOPs) that help growers comply with stringent quality assurance requirements. GrowerIQ consultants can help you get licensed and assist you in implementing good business practices that result in better cannabis products and greater control of your financial success.
The fact that you found your way to this article is remarkable, we’re sure that you’re an ambitious grower. The oppourtunity in international trade does not end here. We have written guides on getting your cannabis license for more countries, such as Denmark, Columbia, Thailand, and Spain. Check out our guides over here: Cannabis License in Denmark, Cannabis License in Colombia, Thailand: The First Asian Country to Legalize Cannabis, and Cannabis License in Spain.
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- Hudock, C. March 16, 2020. Swiss Cannabis Market Enjoys Advantages Unavailable to EU Competitors. New Frontier Data. Retrieved 5/8/21 from https://newfrontierdata.com/cannabis-insights/swiss-cannabis-market-enjoys-advantages-unavailable-to-eu-competitors/
- Federal Office of Public Health FOPH. FAQs on cannabis pilot trials. Admin.ch. Published 2021. Retrieved 5/9/21 from https://www.bag.admin.ch/bag/en/home/gesund-leben/sucht-und-gesundheit/cannabis/faqs.html
- Federal Office of Public Health FOPH. Pilot trials with cannabis. Admin.ch. Published 2021. Retrieved 5/9/21 from https://www.bag.admin.ch/bag/en/home/gesund-leben/sucht-und-gesundheit/cannabis/pilotprojekte.html
- Potter, N. (2022, June 22). Switzerland to Lift Ban on Medical Cannabis. Retrieved June 27, 2022, from High Times website: https://hightimes.com/news/switzerland-to-lift-ban-on-medical-cannabis/