Cannabis Regulation in Europe: Country Report Switzerland

27 March 2019
Report

In the 1990s Switzerland was one of the leaders of a movement towards harm reduction for heroin users. Today, the country is also re-thinking its cannabis policy, with municipalities pushing for experiments in more progressive models of regulation, and citizens pushing for legislative reform. Produced as part of a the "New Approaches in Harm Reduction Policies and Practices" project, this Country Report seeks to understand the drivers of Swiss cannabis policy today, and the possibilities for its future.

Switzerland’s current cannabis policy is experiencing multiple challenges: an unsatisfactory implementation of the narcotics law against cannabis users, a very visible and legal CBD cannabis market, attempts of cantons and cities to develop cannabis-distribution trials, possibly a ballot initiative, and a growing demand for medical cannabis. These multiple challenges should indicate that Switzerland could change its policy in the not too distant future.

Some cities and cantons play an important role in the current situation as their request for a change in cannabis policy is difficult for the federal authorities to ignore. The decision to target the only legal opportunity provided by the federal law (scientific trials) has somewhat reduced the scope of their action, with projects that are often small-scale public health-oriented scientific trials. At the national level, the change of the narcotics law allowing for non-medical trials with cannabis is at this point the most likely and rapid change to be expected. It remains, however, unclear if such a proposal can get the support of a majority of parliamentarians.
 
A possible scenario is that several issues with the cannabis policy (problems with the implementation of the current law, regulation of the CBD market, growing numbers of requests for medical cannabis, etc) trigger individual partial revision of the narcotics law. Instead of going for the big change, this would fix the issues one by one. This scenario is not currently being discussed but it remains the model by default.