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How Soon Will Pharmacies in Switzerland Be Dispensing Medical Cannabis?

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Understanding that cannabis should be legal generally, especially for medical purposes, has become a relatively easy answer with a broad consensus around a lot of the world. How exactly cannabis should be regulated is a much harder question when taking into account all factors and every stakeholder involved in the discussion. While most of us within the cannabis community advocate for as little regulation as possible, that argument runs smack dab into government policymakers and bureaucratic institutions that have a completely different opinion and interests. Switzerland, for example, has an extremely limited medical program that needs to expand, how will the nation respond to the needs of tens of thousands of patients?

We’ll certainly be hearing about the future of Swiss cannabis regulations at the upcoming International Cannabis Business Conference in Zurich this May 15-16, in a team-up with CannaTrade. One Swiss expert contends that Switzerland will likely follow in the footsteps of Germany, and start dispensing medical cannabis through pharmacies. Swissinfo, an online media platform of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, interviewed Rudolf Brenneisen, chair of the Swiss Working Group on Cannabinoids in Medicine and a former consultant to the United Nations Narcotics Laboratory, on the issue, here’s a snippet of that interview: The Zurich Association of Pharmacists would like to offer cannabis in chemists, including cannabis for recreational use. Is this the way forward?
R.B.: Medical cannabis should be offered in pharmacies and be managed by competent people. They should not sell the whole flower head of a cannabis plant, which can vary from plant to plant, but identical solutions. Like any medicine, cannabis must also be of high quality. It should not be sold in kiosks or hemp shops, like today with ‘cannabis light’.

But cannabis used for recreational purposes should be distributed in clubs with age restrictions, a membership system and quality control. Several countries have legalised medical cannabis. What model could Switzerland follow?
R.B.: I don’t think we can follow the American model, where you must be 21 years old to buy cannabis, regardless of its use. The German system, which allows patients to buy cannabis in pharmacies with a medical prescription seems like a good idea. I am sure that within three years this will also be the case in Switzerland.

While I certainly don’t agree with Brenneisen about continuing cannabis prohibition for non-patients over the age of 21, his prediction regarding Swiss pharmacies dispensing medical cannabis within 3 years is likely spot-on. The pharmacy model does have advantages for patients such as testing, standardization, and insurance coverage (in nations that guarantee healthcare coverage to citizens). However, supply problems will be an issue, especially at first, and patients should be allowed to cultivate their own garden and make many of their own products. It will certainly be interesting to see how the Swiss government responds, as well as all nations across Europe.

Each nation that regulates cannabis in some form influences future nations and it makes sense that Switzerland and other European nations will be greatly influenced by Germany. The ICBC looks forward to bringing the cannabis industry to Zurich this May 15th and 16th, in a team-up with CannaTrade, and returning to both Berlin and Barcelona next year to help continue our global movement. Get your tickets today

Rudolf Brenneisen, Swiss Broadcasting Company, Swiss Working Group on Cannabinoids in Medicine, swissinfo, United Nations Narcotics Laboratory