Skip to main content

Exclusive Interview with Ben Arn of CannaTrade, ICBC’s Partner in Zurich


Switzerland’s cannabis scene has flown somewhat under the radar internationally, but that is about to change. The innovative nation actually has rich cannabis culture. From the late 1990s until 2004, a “grey market” flourished as the cannabis community utilized a loophole in the federal narcotics law to engage in cannabis commerce. After the Swiss government closed the loophole, a new market emerged in 2016 when the country legalized the cultivation and sale of cannabis that contained no more than 1% THC as a tobacco substitute.

Swiss cannabis flowers and other products are now cultivated, processed, and sold by more than 600 companies, who export all over the world. Switzerland also has a limited medical program and is making some political strides toward full legalization. Someone that is at the forefront of all things Swiss cannabis related is Ben Arn, CEO of CannaTrade, Europe’s oldest hemp trade fair. The International Cannabis Business Conference is teaming up with CannaTrade as ICBC Zurich will be held from May 15-16, with CannaTrade’s organizing its festivities from the 17th through the 19th. Ben found some time to answer a few questions for us:

Anthony Johnson, for ICBC: How did CannaTrade first come about?

Ben Arn: CannaTrade was born out of the CannaSwissCup and the Swiss Hemp Days in 1999 and 2000. The first official edition with the name CannaTrade was in 2001 in Bern. It’s the oldest still existing cannabis trade show in Europe. And since beginning, it’s a b2b and b2c fair.
What are your feelings about the current status of Swiss cannabis/hemp laws?
Better than the last 10 years! Now we’re looking forward to get a simplified access for patients in the next 2 years and as well a new regulation for THC for everybody in the next 2-5 years. At the same time there is as well a lot to do concerning CBD and foodstuff, regarding the Novel Food laws like everywhere else in Europe. 
Do you have any ideas for how future cannabis laws should move forward in Switzerland? For instance, the highly regulatory model like Canada and Germany, or the more permissive situations occurring in Amsterdam, Barcelona, and what once existed in the “grey areas” in Switzerland? Do you view any nation as a model or should Switzerland form their own unique path?
I wish that Switzerland will form its own path adapted to the regulations of alcohol in Switzerland. But probably, Switzerland will go into the direction as Canada did. Hopefully there will be some place for homegrowers too – it’s what many people in Switzerland are asking for.  
Do you have any concerns about Switzerland falling behind other nations’ cannabis industry or are you confident that the Swiss will be able to catch up?
We are on a good position right now – but the politic has to move fast! I see many countries going on with cannabis as medicine way faster than we are doing actually. But fortunately the media is finally bringing the chance of a new cannabis law to the public discussions. It may be possible that we will be able to grow and export THC weed even faster as Swiss patients will get the simplified access to their medicine. 
What are your goals for this year’s CannaTrade?
We will break the 1000 business visitors number, we will have the nicest business lounge we ever did, we’re having a nice and interesting program for business- and private people, a great afterparty and we’re looking forward to welcome the ICBC at our side on Thursday at the Atlantis and from Friday-Sunday at CannaTrade. So we’re looking forward to 4 great cannabis days in Zurich! 
What are some highlights for those in the industry?
As already mentioned the BusinessLounge powered by CarbonActive, as well the big Chillout-Area powered by hanfhof, and new – for the first time – the big b2b afterwork-apero on Friday, where all exhibitors and all business visitors are invited – so more than 2000 business people will celebrate 2 hours of b2b-apero and party-time together! 
Thanks so much, Ben!
See you in Zurich!
To learn more about CannaTrade, visit:
Discounted, early bird tickets for ICBC Zurich are available until April 24th and attendees get access to CannaTrade as well.
Ben Arn
Ben Arn, CEO of CannaTrade, partner for ICBC Zurich.

B2B, b2c, Ben Arn, CannaTrade, ICBC Zurich