Switzerland Loosens Medical Cannabis Rules and Allows Exports

Beginning August 1, Switzerland will allow medical cannabis patients to obtain prescriptions directly from their doctors without needing federal permission.

Full story after the jump.

Beginning August 1, Switzerland will no longer require medical cannabis patients to request permission from the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), allowing them to get prescriptions directly from their doctors, Forbes reports. The new rules effectively legalize medical cannabis nationally and allow the export of medical cannabis for commercial purposes, although the products are capped at 1% THC.

The reforms follow Switzerland’s Federal Council’s lifting of the ban on cannabis for medical purposes by amending the Swiss Narcotics Act, which Parliament approved in March 2021, the report says. Exporters still need permission from Swissmedic.

The Federal Council indicated that the demand for medical cannabis authorizations has increased in recent years which created an administrative burden and slowed down medical treatment. According to SWI swissinfo.ch, outlined by Forbes, the FOPH issued around 3,000 medical cannabis authorizations in 2019 for patients with cancer, neurological diseases, or multiple sclerosis. Those numbers do not include patients who obtained their cannabis illegally.

Switzerland is expected to begin an adult-use cannabis pilot program in Basel, allowing some citizens to purchase non-medical, THC-rich cannabis. FOPH said the project aims to increase understanding of “alternative regulatory forms” for cannabis that could be the basis for future legislation.

In 2008, nearly two-thirds of Swiss voters rejected a ballot initiative to decriminalize cannabis use nationwide. The Office of Public Health estimates there are 220,000 regular cannabis consumers in Switzerland. 

In June, the University of Geneva published a study estimating that the economic impact of cannabis legalization in Switzerland would generate an annual turnover of about $1.03 billion and create about 4,400 full-time jobs. A separate study published in 2020 estimated the national Swiss cannabis market to be worth up to $520 million. 

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