Swiss lawmakers just advanced a parliamentary initiative that would legalize adult-use cannabis sales throughout 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 content. The following year, lawmakers decriminalized the possession of up to 10 grams of weed, reducing the penalty for possession to a fine of 100 Swiss francs (about $109), with no threat of jail time.
Last year, Switzerland launched a new five-year pilot program that legalized cannabis sales and use for a limited number of adults. Five thousand Swiss citizens aged 18 or older enrolled in this program, which will allow them to buy and use locally-cultivated pot. 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 exchange for access to legal pot, each participant has agreed to have their health regularly monitored for the duration of the study.
The Swiss Federal Assembly expected to hold off on any further debates over adult-use legalization until they could review the full results of this study. Licensed cultivators are not expected to begin delivering pot to participants until next year, though, which means the program will not wrap up until 2027 at the earliest. Lawmakers also gave themselves an option to extend the program even longer, so the final debate over legalization could actually be put off until 2030.
The 5,000 lucky participants in the study are not the only people getting stoned in Switzerland, though. It is estimated that about half a million Swiss people, approximately 6 percent of the country's entire population, regularly use marijuana. With no access to legal pot, these Swiss stoners have turned to the black market, which provides a wealth of unregulated, non-organic, high-THC weed to any buyer.
Rather than allowing this black market to grow unchecked for the rest of the decade, National Council Member Heinz Siegenthaler filed a new initiative that would greatly speed up the process of legalization. Under this new proposal, every adult in the country would become eligible to buy legal weed. The bill would likely keep the other limitations of the pilot program intact, including the organic cultivation guidelines and the 20 percent THC cap.
Late last week, the Health Commission of Switzerland National Council, the lower chamber of the country's parliament, voted 13-11 to advance Siegenthaler's new adult-use initiative. But in order to succeed, this bill must still be approved by the full National Council and the Council of States, the higher chamber of the Federal Assembly.