The country famously known for its cheese with holes in, marvelous time pieces, and its former bank privacy, is slowly edging towards a future experiment which will allow the use of recreational marijuana.
This week the lower house of the country’s Federal Assembly approved a bill which supports the start of a five year long experiment during which production and consumption of recreational cannabis will be allowed and observed. The experiment may be extended with another two years if required.
At the end of the experimental stage, the country will debate whether to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Switzerland, based on observations made during the five (seven) years of the experiment.
Next the country’s Council of States, it’s upper house, is expected to vote on the bill. Drug policy experts in Switzerland expect a positive vote, although they warn the bill may be amended and see changes.
Switzerland is said to have around 200,000 regular cannabis consumers, despite the consumption of non-medical marijuana being prohibited. The project has been in the working for a while already and was narrowly approved by the Swiss National Council Health Commission in December 2019.
The bill passed this week included more details about the program.
Participants must be at least 18-years old and will be closely monitored, including their health. Participants must already be cannabis consumers to qualify for the experiment.
No public consumption of marijuana will be allowed. Switzerland being Switzerland, only locally grown and organic cannabis will be allowed in the project.
Previous suggestions to inform employers and schools of participants were rejected, as well as the idea of registering all participants in a central database. A proposal to suspend the driving license of all participants for the duration of the experiment was also rejected.
Currently the bill still contains a cap on the THC content of 20%.
Drug policy expert Simon Anderfuhren-Biget told the Marijuana Business Daily they don’t expect the experiment to actually start before 2022. Because of the duration of the experiment, full legalization could still be years away.
“This scientific process is expected to last five years, which could be extended (by) two more, and the evidence collected from it is supposed to provide scientific arguments for a national debate on the opportunity to legally regulate cannabis for adult consumers.“
— Simon Anderfuhrer-Biget, PhD Political Science University of Geneva
This would lead to full legalization potentially not being debated before 2030. Although they did point at Switzerland’s democratic processes possibly speeding up popular topics.
For those who apply but don’t get in the experiment, the long wait will be like getting your first block of Emmentaler and discovering all the emptiness in the cheese.
Currently European legislation is slow and so far only Luxembourg is in the initial stage of rolling out legalized recreational cannabis. In the Netherlands the several decades old gedoogbeleid (tolerance policy) continues, although in recent months first steps have been made to provide legally grown marijuana to coffeeshops. In Germany cannabis consumption generally also is tolerated, and political parties have committed to support the legalization but that may be but electoral campaigning.
Graphic via Deutsche Welle
As Europe continues to deal with the fall out of the Coronavirus, as well as continued internal struggles, it isn’t expected that the cannabis legislation mouvement will pick up much momentum across the 27 member states of the European Union and fans of the green we all love so much will probably need to celebrate small steps forward like the Swiss experiment.
Or move to Portugal where most drugs, even class A-drugs are fully decriminalized up to a certain amount, after which compulsory rehab is required.