Switzerland is about to implement new regulations for cannabis, some of the strictest in Europe. These changes could impact operations and have a ripple effect around the globe. How these measures will affect marijuana consumption rates remains unclear as many other countries look at adopting similar policies.
Cannabis should no longer be illegal, but rather extensively controlled, according to Switzerland’s government department in charge of public health and welfare. As a consequence, the National Council is now tasked with developing that framework as well as a comprehensive medical and recreational infrastructure. Zurich, the country’s biggest and capital, will be the first to launch this cannabis enchilada.
There are other challenges at play here, in addition to national-level regulation of the industry—a feat that has only been accomplished by two nations to yet (Uruguay and Canada). Switzerland is putting all of this to the test with a nationwide study.
This is intentionally restricted to 5,000 research participants per canton, but it will help the business flourish by establishing a “state-by-state” structure. Participants in this category will be required to demonstrate that they are already cannabis users. This shouldn’t be difficult. Approximately a third of the Swiss population has admitted to smoking cannabis at some point in their lives. Approximately 200,000 people confess to smoking on a regular basis.
Cities will be permitted to perform scientific research on the economic effects of a new business as well as the local impact of recreational cannabis sales (and accessibility).
To guarantee quality requirements, local producers must get a manufacturing permission from the Federal Office of Public Health.
Participants will be allowed to buy marijuana from pharmacies as well as social groups.
What Implications Does This Development Have for Switzerland?
In Europe, three adult use markets are now pending. This includes Luxembourg, which has opted to go through with the creation of the same on a more or less timely basis, and Portugal, which is currently determining how to do so on a legal level. Then there’s Holland, which is likewise a distinct beast at this point, with a federal regulatory framework in place, even though coffee shops in bigger cities remain mainly autonomous.
The Swiss trial, on the other hand, is fascinating for a variety of reasons.
The first is that it is intended to foster a domestic growing industry, namely one that contains recreational cannabis (high THC). Aside from that, the Swiss market will begin to provide items that have yet to be seen in Europe, such as extracts and edibles. This is a huge step forward in the debate, even if it will take the EU some time to respond on a regulatory level.
Following the national election, there has undoubtedly been a resurgence of hope for change on the horizon. Starting with the CBD front, there are currently various legal issues floating about the topic.
Aside from that, there is renewed optimism that decriminalization, if not a German recreational trial, is on the way.
To put it another way, the Swiss trial has the potential to pull a lot of levers on the reform front—and not just domestically.
However, there is another conversation going on in the room. Where does the border between “medical” and “recreational” cannabis lay if cannabis may be sold at pharmacies without a prescription?
The GACP vs. GMP Debate
Beyond extracts and sweets, arguably the most significant consequence of the Swiss experiment will be to begin to clarify the boundary between medical grade cannabis and cannabis destined for recreational markets, beginning with production.
Cannabis derived from indoor vs. outdoor growing locations will be the first to exhibit this. Indoor cultivation of GMP cannabis is required (for starters). Given Switzerland’s short natural growing season, most home cultivation destined for either market will most likely be cultivated inside.
Cannabis will, however, be distributed in Switzerland via established pharmaceutical, food, beverage, and cosmetics channels. The fee for novel foods will be waived (for the purposes of the trial at least).
For the first time, a completely baked cannabis market will exist, with no component of the plant, cannabinoid, usage, or product left out of the equation.
This is unlike anything else now seen in Europe, and it will begin to make an impact simply beyond Swiss boundaries. For example, if cannabinoids grown in the region are not extracted in a way that is recognized as “normal” here, the “recreational,” high-THC market here is very likely to finally defeat the Novel Food genie—and for all cannabinoids grown in the region, if not extracted in a way that is recognized as “normal” here as well.
For all of these reasons, the forthcoming Swiss national trial is likely to upset the cannabis (apple) cart simply by demonstrating what is conceivable.
The states that border the Ukraine, many of which are on the edge of change, are keeping a close eye on the situation.