Switzerland Just Became the First European Country to Start Selling Adult-Use Weed
Under a unique pilot program, a select group of Swiss citizens will be allowed to purchase a very limited range of legal cannabis products.
Published on February 1, 2023

This Monday, Switzerland became the first European country to allow the sale of adult-use weed. But there's one important catch: Fewer than 200 people will actually be legally allowed to buy that bud.

This seemingly bizarre restriction is part of Switzerland's exceptionally cautious approach to legalization. Instead of jumping balls-deep into the world of legal weed, officials decided to implement a very conservative pilot program. Under this program, a select number of Swiss adults will be allowed to purchase and use a limited amount of legal weed. In return, these lucky stoners must agree to have their physical and mental health monitored during the course of the experiment.

The first phase of the program kicked off this week in Basel-Stadt, the smallest of the country's 26 cantons. Now that the program is underway, around 180 adults can now legally buy weed at 9 drugstores in the city of Basel. There are only six legal weed products available, though, including 4 types of flower and 2 types of hash. The weed is organic, and only costs around 10 bucks a gram, but participants can only buy 10 grams per purchase, and no more than 10 grams of THC per month.

Six months from now, around 200 more adults will also be allowed to take part in this legal weed experiment. The youngest of these participants is 18, and the oldest is 76. All of the program's members can legally smoke weed in private, but are prohibited from smoking in public, sharing their legal bud with friends, or driving under the influence. The experiment is expected to last until March 2025.

This pilot program is one of several that is kicking off all over the country this year. In 2021, Swiss lawmakers amended the country's Narcotics Act to grant individual jurisdictions the right to launch experiments on the regulated sales of cannabis to healthy adults. Several other Swiss cantons and cities are also planning to launch their own pot pilot programs this year as well. In total, as many as 5,000 adults could eventually be allowed to blaze up legally.

If these programs are a success, they could convince the country's government to fully legalize cannabis for any adult. But given the length of these trials, that final legalization date could be ten years from now. In the meantime, the average Swiss stoner will have to either stick with medical marijuana or stock up on the low-THC hemp that is legally sold everywhere in the country. Some will certainly continue to use black market bud, of course, but thankfully lawmakers have already decriminalized minor pot possession.

Despite the extreme limitations, these pilot programs technically make Switzerland the first country in Europe to allow adult-use cannabis sales. Malta is the first European nation to actually legalize weed, but the country only allows personal possession and use, not sales. Germany is also working to kick off legal adult-use markets, but sales aren't expected to begin for several years. 

Portugal and the Netherlands also both decriminalized pot use decades ago, but neither country has actually legalized weed. Holland is working on its own pilot program to bring legal weed to its popular cannabis cafes, but Switzerland beat them to the punch.

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Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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