Switzerland is only one step closer to the federal legalization of weeds

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The Swiss legislature has just pushed ahead with a parliamentary initiative to legalize the sale of cannabis for adults across the country.

Switzerland already has a well-deserved reputation as one of the most cannabis-friendly countries in Europe. In 2011, the country legalized the possession, use, and sale of cannabis products containing up to one percent THC. The following year, lawmakers decriminalized possession of up to 10 grams of weed and reduced the penalty for possession to a fine of 100 Swiss francs (about $ 109) with no prison sentence.

Last year, Switzerland launched a new five-year pilot program that legalized the sale and use of cannabis for a limited number of adults. Five thousand Swiss citizens aged 18 and over have signed up for this program, which allows them to buy and use locally grown pots. All cannabis produced under this pilot program must be organic, and the THC content of all legal weed products is capped at 20 percent. In return for access to the legal pot, each participant consented to their health being monitored regularly for the duration of the study.

The Swiss Federal Assembly expected to suspend further debates on adult legalization until they could review the full results of this study. However, licensed cultivators are not expected to deliver a pot to participants until next year, which means the program will not be completed until 2027 at the earliest. Legislators also gave themselves the option to extend the program even longer, so that the final debate on legalization could actually be postponed until 2030.

However, the 5,000 lucky study participants are not the only ones to be stoned in Switzerland. It is estimated that around half a million Swiss people, around 6 percent of the country’s total population, regularly use marijuana. With no access to legal pot, these Swiss stoners have turned to the black market, which offers any buyer an abundance of unregulated, non-organic, high-THC weeds.

Instead of letting this black market grow unhindered for the rest of the decade, National Council member Heinz Siegenthaler submitted a new initiative that would significantly accelerate the legalization process. Under this new proposal, every adult in the country would be eligible to buy legal weeds. The bill would likely retain the pilot’s other restrictions, including the organic guidelines and the 20 percent THC cap.

At the end of last week, the National Council of the Swiss Health Commission, the lower chamber of the country’s parliament, voted 13 to 11 for the further development of Siegenthaler’s new initiative on the use of adults. In order to be successful, however, this draft law still has to be approved by the entire National Council and the Council of States, the higher chamber of the Federal Assembly.

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