Switzerland legalises cannabis in Zurich: Trial will assess benefits of regulating drug

The Swiss government has approved plans to legalise the consumption and sale of cannabis in Zurich in a trial that will assess the economic and health benefits of its regulating 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 every six months on their consumption habits and health.

The Zuri Can – Cannabis with Responsibility project is a collaboration between the Zurich city council and the Zurich University Hospital.

Barbara Burri, the project leader from the Zurich municipal health department, said: ‘The idea is to get robust real world evidence that serves policymaking for new [national] regulation on cannabis.’

switzerland legalises cannabis in zurich: trial will assess benefits of regulating drug

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 residents of Zurich residents will be allowed to buy regulated doses of the recreational drug for personal use

The federal health department on Tuesday gave its final approval for the trial.

Some European authorities are hoping to mirror US states in shifting towards the liberalisation of laws on cannabis consumption.

In Germany, the government revealed plans for legalising the drug across the country, under strict conditions, last October.

After obtaining government approval for the trial in Switzerland, Swissextract and Pure Production AG, the two producers, can start cultivating cannabis plants to be used in the study.

The first harvest is expected to arrive in July, while hash products, which take longer to produce and are more difficult to process, are expected to become available in the latter half of October, as reported by the Swiss news website Nau.

A total of 21 supply points for study cannabis starting sales in August 2023 are expected, according to Forbes.

The drug will be available for participants to buy from pharmacies, special dispensaries and social clubs across the city from July at prices that can be altered in line with changes in black market prices.

switzerland legalises cannabis in zurich: trial will assess benefits of regulating drug

A staff member prepares CBD dried flower buds at a CBD cannabis production company in Switzerland

According to public health surveys in Switzerland, a third of adults has tried the recreational drug.

Of Zurich’s 400,000 residents, an estimated 13,000 of them are frequent users.

Participants will be permitted to choose from products with varying concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the active component in cannabis – and Cannabidiol (CBD).

Powerful strains of up to 20 per cent THC concentration will also be available.

The purity of the products will be closely monitored and they will produced organically by licensed Swiss companies.

‘The trial will have a broad focus to gain data on the effects of different strengths of cannabis, on what helps individuals make informed decisions and on the pros and cons of different models of sale,’ Burri said.

The trial aims to determine the conditions under which cannabis legalisation in Switzerland can run alongside ‘promoting individual and public health and safety,’ the study leaders said.

Evidence from the trial will be published on a rolling basis from next year.

Anyone over 18 will be able to take part in the trial, excluding pregnant women, professional drivers and those who show signs of drug dependency or poor health stemming from drug use.

switzerland legalises cannabis in zurich: trial will assess benefits of regulating drug

Staff members work in a greenhouse at the CBD cannabis production company in Switzerland

In a 2008 referendum, just over a third of Swiss citizens voted for legalising cannabis, but public opinion has changed dramatically since then.

MPs passed an amendment to the nation’s narcotics act in September 2020 to make room for ‘pilot’ legalisations 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 over the coming months.

Basel, a city in north west Switzerland, launched a smaller version of the trial legalising cannabis use in September.

Zurich finalised proposals for the scheme last July.

The move comes as other parts of Europe are reconsidering their marijuana regulation in response to drug policy shifts worldwide.

The Netherlands is set to launch a pilot program later in the year for cannabis sales in the municipalities of Breda and Tilburg.

Germany may introduce a bill to greenlight the consumption and sale of cannabis within the coming weeks, according to reports.

This would make it the first country in the EU to permit its nationwide commercial sale.

Neighbouring Czech Republic and Luxembourg have also already proposed plans to legalise cannabis for adult-use, while in Austria, Italy and Spain, it is no longer a criminal offence to possess small amounts for personal consumption.

Malta in 2021 became the first country in the bloc to legalise personal possession of cannabis and permit private ‘cannabis clubs,’ where members can grow and share the drug.

Elsewhere, Canada, Uruguay and, recently, Thailand, have all moved to legalise cannabis in the past decade.

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