Believe it or not, Switzerland has had legal weed since 2011. But thanks to low-THC requirements in the law, stoned snow vacations to the Alps have been on hold. Now, after six years of legalization, the Swiss cannabis market is finally taking off, and it’s all thanks to CBD.
"It started gradually last year, and then suddenly things went crazy in December 2016 and in 2017," a spokesman for Switzerland's Customs Agency told Reuters about the country’s booming marijuana industry.
In the past year alone, retailers licensed to sell the low-potency cannabis in Switzerland have grown from a handful to over 140. Sales have jumped too, with conservative estimates guessing this year’s cannabis sales will eclipse $100 million.
Swiss regulations say that legal cannabis has to have less than 1% THC, but it’s CBD levels that are getting Swiss customers excited. Known for its healing properties and medicinal benefits, growers in Switzerland are isolating cannabis genetics and cultivating strains specially made for high levels of cannabidiol, or CBD. For Switzerland’s new potheads, that means relief from all sorts of ailments, for those young and old.
"Our customers are very mixed. It is really not only the stereotype of unemployed joint smokers, wearing backward caps and sneakers," Paul Monot, a founder of Doctor Green's cannabis shop in Geneva said. "They are from all walks of life: 88-year old people are coming, as well as workers, bankers and lawyers."
And for Carole Rodriguez, a 58-year-old nurse from southern Switzerland and regular customer at Doctor Green’s, the CBD-heavy buds help curtail her arthritis.
"I am going to brew it in a herbal tea, to fight against pains linked to my joints," Rodriguez told Reuters. "I'll try to cook it in small biscuits, but I'd rather eat it than smoke it because I am not a smoker."
But while the country’s growers and distributors have become serious about their low-dose marijuana, Swiss cops are still having trouble telling the difference between buds with tons of THC and those with only 0.8%. Some cops have even started stopping smokers to check their cannabis containers for potency listings.
That’s not a problem for Swiss cannabis entrepreneur Corso Serra di Cassano, who runs KannaSwiss, a wholesale marijuana distributor, who welcomes more regulations and standards.
"The money is great, it's a good thing to do," di Cassano told Reuters. "But to me, that health aspect, that people are getting a healthy product, is much more important than a quick buck."