Switzerland in Zurich will begin cannabis testing for recreational purposes in 2022 |

Switzerland has finally announced its eagerly awaited three and a half year pilot program to implement the development of a recreational cannabis study (and industry). This is a direct result of changes in the law that were made in Swiss law last year.

The study will enable Swiss cities to set up their own cannabis markets and also carry out their own studies on the effects of such cannabis test markets and the effects on the population on the use of the drug.

The Zurich study called “Zuri Can” will begin next autumn and will include various products with different THC and CBD content. The communal process is supervised by the Psychiatric Clinic of the University of Zurich.

Local manufacturers must obtain a production permit from the Federal Office of Public Health in order to guarantee the quality standards.

Not only is this one of the most watched experiments currently, it’s also a major turnaround in the Swiss people and legislature in a relatively short period of time (and one that follows and lags North American reform by about seven years). In 2008, almost two thirds of Swiss voters voted against decriminalizing cannabis for personal use.

What’s good (and bad) about the approach?

Since the discussion about the leisure time reform in the DACH region (Germany, Switzerland and Austria) has stalled beyond the rest of Europe, every federally regulated leisure time attempt in one of these countries should be viewed as a sign of progress.

Unfortunately, with all of this there are still some strange elements that smell of lingering stigma, starting with the recreational process being overseen by a mental health department in the largest city in the country. The second strange twist is that the study is only looking for “experienced users” to participate.

Exactly what an “experienced” consumer is is determined by hair tests – namely, you have to prove that you have consumed enough cannabis so that the evidence is not only detectable in urine or even blood tests.

Beyond this definition, however, the study objectives are clear: to understand the dynamics of a legitimate market and to set it up to combat the illegal one. The idea, of course, is to move to a state-licensed, national leisure market in four years – the second in Europe after Holland according to the current schedule.

Outside of Zurich, further experiments are planned in the largest Swiss cities such as Basel, Bern, Biel and Geneva.

While official estimates are, of course, just that (and for all the obvious reasons), there are currently an estimated 200,000 people who continuously use cannabis or cannabis products.

Organic in Switzerland

All of this has yet another twist that could prove groundbreaking for the cultivation of cannabis (and even for medicinal purposes) across Europe. The only cannabis allowed in the study must be grown both domestically and organically.

This means the Swiss may create yet another precedent that could spread across Europe, if not the entire cultivation industry. So far there has been a great debate about how both medicinal and recreational cannabis should be grown.

The debate so far – especially whether cannabis that is grown indoors but under high GACP standards (namely national, if not regional standards for all foods), might be processed, extracted and packaged as EU GMP (or pharmaceutical quality) process. The requirement that cannabis in Switzerland must be an organic crop defines the process better in general – and could even become a regional standard for all cannabis varieties grown in the EU. See Portugal and Spain for a start, where this debate has started to rage, sparked by the German medical import market.

If such a regulatory scheme were largely copied from Switzerland, this in turn would help regulate the emerging domestic markets across the continent and pave a path to both the pharmaceutical and leisure markets that begin with a single certification.

This could also be used to (significantly) reduce the cost of producing medical cannabis, not to mention reducing its carbon footprint.

The strategic Swiss can thus shape an industry in their own way that needs better orientation aid for future care and processing far away from the Swiss borders.

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