The Swiss government has approved plans to legalize the consumption and sale of cannabis in Zurich in a trial that will assess the economic and health benefits of regulating its supply.
As part of a three-and-a-half-year scientific study starting this summer, 2,100 Zurich residents will be allowed to buy regulated doses of the recreational drug for personal use.
In return, they will have to answer a questionnaire about their consumption habits and health every six months.
The Zuri Can – Cannabis with Responsibility project is a collaboration between the Zurich City Council and Zurich University Hospital.
Barbara Burri, the project leader at Zurich’s municipal health department, said: ‘The idea is to get robust real-world evidence that the policy-making is for new (national) regulation of cannabis.’
A greenhouse at a CBD cannabis production company in Switzerland (file photo). As part of a three-and-a-half-year scientific study starting this summer, 2,100 Zurich residents will be allowed to buy regulated doses of the recreational drug for personal use
The federal health service gave its final approval for the trial on Tuesday.
Some European authorities hope to mirror US states in liberalizing cannabis use laws.
In Germany, the government announced plans last October to legalize the drug nationwide under strict conditions.
After obtaining government approval for the trial in Switzerland, Swissextract and Pure Production AG, the two producers, can now begin growing cannabis plants for use in the study.
The first harvest is expected in July, while hashish products, which take longer to produce and are more difficult to process, are expected to be available in the second half of October, Swiss news website Nau reports.
According to Forbes, a total of 21 student cannabis supply points are expected to begin sales in August 2023.
The drug will be available for participants to purchase from pharmacies, specialty pharmacies and social clubs around the city starting in July at prices that can adjust to changes in black market prices.
According to public health surveys in Switzerland, one-third of adults have tried the recreational drug.
Of Zurich’s 400,000 residents, an estimated 13,000 are frequent users.
Participants can choose from products with different concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the active ingredient in cannabis – and cannabidiol (CBD).
Zurich (file photo). According to public health surveys in Switzerland, one-third of adults have tried the recreational drug
Potential strains will also be available with THC levels of up to 20 percent.
The purity of the products is closely monitored and they are organically produced by recognized Swiss companies.
“The trial will have a broad focus to collect data on the effects of different strengths of cannabis, what helps individuals make informed decisions, and the pros and cons of different sales models,” Burri said.
The study aims to determine the conditions under which legalization of cannabis in Switzerland can be carried out in addition to “promoting individual and public health and safety,” the study leaders said.
Proof of the trial will be published on a rolling basis from next year.
Anyone over the age of 18 can participate in the trial, with the exception of pregnant women, professional drivers and people who show signs of drug addiction or poor health as a result of drug use.
In a 2008 referendum, just over a third of Swiss citizens voted to legalize cannabis, but public opinion has changed dramatically since then.
MPs approved an amendment to the country’s drug law in September 2020 to allow for ‘pilot’ legalizations of cannabis.
Further studies in Switzerland with university and public sponsors are also planned in the cities of Basel, Bern, Lausanne, Geneva, Biel, Thun, Olten and Winterthur in the coming months.
Basel, a city in northwestern Switzerland, launched a smaller version of the trial legalizing cannabis use in September.
Zurich finalized proposals for the scheme last July.
The move comes as other parts of Europe are rethinking their marijuana regulation in response to a shift in drug policies worldwide.
The Netherlands will start a pilot program for the sale of cannabis in the municipalities of Breda and Tilburg later this year.
Germany may introduce a bill in the coming weeks to make the consumption and sale of cannabis greener.
German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said last week that the plans had received “very good feedback” from the European Commission. He said the bill could be announced in late March or early next month.
This would make it the first country in the EU to allow nationwide commercial sales.
Neighboring Czech Republic and Luxembourg have also proposed plans to legalize cannabis for adult use, while Austria, Italy and Spain no longer make it a criminal offense to possess small amounts for personal use.
Malta in 2021 became the first country in the bloc to legalize personal possession of cannabis and allow private ‘cannabis clubs’ where members can grow and share the drug.
Elsewhere, Canada, Uruguay and most recently Thailand have taken steps to legalize cannabis over the past decade.