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The Swiss Step Carefully Into First Semi-Legalization Project

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Recreational cannabis will be available from Swiss pharmacies as of 2022, on a limited trial basis.

If there is one word to describe the European approach to cannabis generally, it has been so far, caution. If there was another, it would be regulation. There is nothing “casual” or indeterminate in every European national approach to a conversation that is now so overdue it is burning its way into international discourse.

Even more pressing for the Swiss at this point, a non-EU nation in the middle of Europe, is the fact that their neighbours in Luxembourg are barrelling towards a recreational experiment of their own in 2022.

The solution? A national trial which will allow up to 5,000 adults per participating municipality, to purchase cannabis in Swiss pharmacies – without a prescription. Even more intriguingly, all the cannabis sold via this route must be produced domestically (it cannot be imported). Furthermore, THC content may not exceed 20%.

Prices will be set to compete with the black market – and can be adjusted on the level of THC in the strain.

Cities must submit their own plans to participate in the trial, which is intended to run for five years.

Some of the other requirements are a bit vague including proving “previous experience” with the plant as a consumer. How is one supposed to “prove” a previous experience with cannabis? No doubt the savvy Swiss will find a way.

It may not be Colorado, in other words. But it is clearly a move in the right direction. And further, it may also signal where Luxembourg’s first recreational cannabis crops will come from beyond Portugal.

A Blended Market Based on High Levels of Testing

For all the lack of opportunity – at the moment – for a “coffee shop culture” there is one thing to say about the Swiss experiment. It will be regulated, from the beginning with high levels of testing along the way. GMP levels may not be required for cultivation but testing in GMP labs is likely to become de rigeur. In Switzerland, as well as across Europe. 

There are unlikely to be as a result, any pesticide scandals rocking the nascent Swiss recreational industry.

How this hybrid approach will work is still, for the moment, in the hands of cities across Switzerland who are now tasked with coming up with detailed plans. Will it all go as smoothly as a proverbial Swiss watch? Undoubtedly not. This is cannabis reform after all. But it is a venture into territory which for the most part, most European countries are still highly loath to tread.

For the most updated information on the changing regulations of the European cannabis industry, be sure to book your tickets to the International Cannabis Business Conference when it returns to Europe, Summer of 2021.