Switzerland is now just weeks away from launching Europe’s “first recreational THC cannabis pilot”, the first of a dozen that are expected to take place in the country over the next few months.
Called “Weed Care”, the pilot project is due to launch in Switzerland’s third most populous city, Basel, on September 15 and will run until March 2025.
This is the latest step in a long line of parliamentary decisions towards the liberalization of cannabis in the country, after the country made significant regulatory changes to ease its restrictive access to medical cannabis last month.
Lino Cereghetti, CCO of Pure Production AG, supplier of the cannabis for the pilot project, told BusinessCann: “If CBD opened the door to cannabis, these pilot projects will open the door to THC. »
Weed Care Pilot
The Health Department of the City of Basel, the University Psychiatric Clinics of Basel, the University of Basel and Pure Production will work together, alongside other stakeholders such as the Swiss compliance and management software platform the Cannavigia supply chain, to lead the pilot.
Approximately 370 participants, who must be over the age of 18, reside in Basel-City and use cannabis, will take part in this two-and-a-half-year study.
Throughout the duration of the study, these participants will be regularly interviewed to determine the level of their cannabis use and its effects on their physical and mental health, “among other things.”
According to Mr. Cereghetti: “One of the main objectives of this study is to determine whether, in a regulated market where they have a choice, people choose products that minimize risk. Because if they go to the black market, all they get is high THC, no CBD.”
They will have access to four different flower products and two different hashes, with varying degrees of THC content and below 20%.
All products will be supplied by Pure Production, and all will be available at ‘black market prices’ of between 8 and 12 Swiss francs per gram, almost the equivalent in euros.
Luc Richner, CEO of Cannavigia, added: “In the upcoming pilot project in Basel, the prices are based on the THC content of the cannabis and may vary during the trials.
“The studies underlying these trials are designed to better understand the effects of controlled access to cannabis on consumer health and behavior and may also examine the impact on the local black market. However, the specific research questions will be decided by the research projects concerned. »
Participants will be able to purchase their products at nine different pharmacies in 5-gram packets and can purchase up to two packets at a time.
Cannavigia will also provide the distribution system for the pilot, which will see producers “use its software to track their cultivation and distribution”, allowing the Federal Office of Public Health (OFSP) to “know the amount of cannabis produced”. , and dispensaries to “authenticate participants to ensure only those approved for the trial can purchase cannabis.”
“Due to the Narcotics Act and accountability to the UN, maximum compliance and transparency is required. In addition, the pilot projects provide a scientific basis for possible future legalization,” Richner explained.
“We have developed an extension of our Cannavigia software which provides the necessary information for these two aspects. Transparency throughout the supply chain builds confidence in future cannabis legalization and helps paint a realistic picture of what possible legalization might look like in the future. »
More studies to come
These pilot studies were made possible by key regulatory changes made to the Federal Narcotic Control Act on May 15, 2021.
While the FOPH approved the pilot on April 19 this year, requests for such studies were reportedly submitted by the universities of Bern and Basel as early as 2017, which would have “set the political process in motion”.
Although it would have been open to the idea, the government was forced to reject these proposals on the grounds that there was no legal framework allowing the establishment of such pilots.
Last May’s amendment established that legal framework, allowing controlled sale of cannabis for recreational and research purposes for 10 years, and providing a “broad framework of possibilities” designed to provide a solid factual basis for the best regulatory path. to be continued.
According to Cereghetti, Basel, Bern and Zurich all announced their intention to implement pilot projects when regulations changed last year, but Basel was the fastest.
Now that the Basel study has been given the green light, a number of study requests have been submitted by other cities.
“They are still being processed and will be granted in one, two or three months, depending on the date of submission and the degree of completeness of these requests. »
“Currently, there are about 10 projects in Switzerland that have openly communicated that they have started submitting or are still planning to submit, and we are involved in many of them. In addition, we plan to set up our own pilot project in 2023.”
Not only are many more studies expected to be launched over the next few months, but a new attempt at national recreational legalization is also reportedly underway.
After the failed referendum on the legalization of the cultivation, purchase and consumption of cannabis for personal use in 2008, which saw 63% of citizens vote against it, Pure and other parties worked on a second public vote.
However, in light of the rapid progress made on the Medical Cannabis Act and pilot projects, the group “no longer saw any reason for a public vote” and decided to go a parliamentary route.
In October 2021, the Council of States’ Social Security and Health Commission voted in favor of a motion allowing the full legalization and commercialization of cannabis for adult use.
Now a nine-person subcommittee of the commission has until October 2023 to draft legislation that would “regulate recreational cannabis nationally”, and a parliamentary caucus has been created to train over the next 18 months.
“It means that the people who will write the law will have a good understanding of cannabis and the mistakes, from places like Canada, that we can learn from.
“What has happened in public perception over the past five years in Switzerland has been incredible. We could have full regulation of the cannabis market in Switzerland by 2025. And yet these pilot projects will run in parallel. »