Cannabis in Switzerland: CBD and Marijuana Legislation and Regulation

Switzerland and cannabis: A complicated relationship with a bright future

When it comes to cannabis, Switzerland made headlines around the world in 2017 when it became the first European country to raise the THC limit in flowers and products to one percent.

Currently, other countries are starting to follow suit, but the Swiss are again one step ahead with their other pioneering recreational cannabis pilot project in Europe, starting soon in Basel.

How progressive is the cannabis movement in Switzerland?

Compared to other European countries, Switzerland has always maintained one of the most liberal attitudes towards cannabis and its users. In 2012, simple possession of small amounts of marijuana was decriminalized and some cantons allowed citizens to grow and process cannabis for personal use.

However, this initiative quickly came to an end following the intervention of the federal court. Still, cannabis has always been popular among the Swiss, with an estimated half a million users out of some 8.5 million inhabitants.

Legality of medical cannabis in Switzerland

Regarding the medical use of cannabis, Swiss doctors have been authorized to prescribe medical cannabis to their patients since 2011, one of the first in Europe. Although, in reality, there are very strict rules to be able to prescribe medical cannabis and the products available are so expensive that only a handful of patients can afford it and many more prefer to buy their medicine on the black market. That is why cannabis patient organizations and even some doctors are calling for reforms to make this medicinal herb more accessible.

The CBD market in Switzerland: The CBD Boom

Six years ago, the cannabis landscape in Switzerland underwent a major change when all cannabis with less than 1% THC was legalized. (in the rest of Europe, the legal THC limit remains between 0.2 or 0.3%, with the exception of 0.6% in Italy).

In Switzerland, it is legal to produce, import and sell cannabis with a THC content of less than 1% for recreational use, without being classified as a narcotic drug.

As we know, when strains with 1 % THC are grown, the content of CBD or cannabidiol and other (minor) cannabinoids could be much higher than in hemp strains with 0.3 % THC. The same goes for the terpene profile, which can be much richer, meaning that flowers and extracts smell and taste much better.

In Switzerland, cannabis strains containing less than 1% THC are legal (regardless of their CBD content). In most European countries, the legal THC limit is 0.3%.

The legal THC limit at 1% triggered a huge CBD boom in Switzerland, with hundreds of growers and thousands of sellers of CBD-rich cannabis with up to 20% CBD and less than 1% THC (and products made with these extracts).

Cannabis enthusiasts in other European countries such as Spain, France, Germany, Italy or the United Kingdom could only envy their Swiss counterparts.

Cannabis strains with 1% THC can contain much more CBD and other minor cannabinoids, as well as a richer terpenoid profile, than hemp strains containing less than 0.3% THC.

Swiss growers and distributors produced high quality buds and not only thrived in the domestic market, but also in the international market. also managed to get their flowers, abundant in CBD, to other countries thanks to the process of washing out most of the THC.The plant material is then treated with the active compounds in the interior of the plant material. Because even those washed cannabis flowers still contained much more CBD and terpenes than traditional hemp varieties grown and sold in other European countries.

The Swiss legal limit of 1% THC allowed the production of flowers and extracts with an extraordinary smell and taste. This triggered a CBD boom in Switzerland, which is one of Europe’s leading CBD hemp producers.

Then came 2022 and rising electricity prices along with the increase of the 1% THC limit in the Czech Republic. More and more competition was emerging, also from Italy, with its THC limit of 0.6% and its climate, which allows to produce incredible CBD flowers also outdoors, and not only indoors.

The result is that the price of cannabis flower began to fall while the cost of indoor flower production continued to rise, pushing many Swiss CBD flower growers out of business. Thus, the CBD boom in Switzerland came to an end and the market began to normalize.

Swiss recreational pilot program Weed Care

But what about cannabis with more than 1% THC? Last year, Switzerland made headlines again in the cannabis world after announcing the start of a pilot project in Basel with a strictly limited regulated market. The project is called Weed Care and includes fewer than 400 participants from Switzerland’s third largest city who will be able to buy marijuana legally in local pharmacies.

The launch of the project has been delayed due to some problems with the quality of the product, but according to the press release from producer Pure Holding, sales will start at the end of January: “Regulated dispensing of cannabis in pharmacies in Basel will be able to start at the end of January 2023.

The Basel trial for the regulated sale of cannabis products in selected pharmacies has received renewed approval from the Federal Office of Public Health for new products after a delayed launch. Six products of national organic production will be used”.

If all goes well, these trials should begin in other Swiss cities and cantons with more participants, although according to government officials I spoke to in Zurich a couple of months ago, we cannot expect full recreational legalization throughout the country before 2024 or 2025.

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Legal status of CBD and marijuana in Switzerland (FAQ)

Is CBD legal in Switzerland?

Yes, CBD is legal in Switzerland in all its forms, including CBD flowers. Switzerland is a paradise for CBD enthusiasts and you can buy products with up to 1% THC.

What kind of CBD products can be purchased in Switzerland?

Switzerland has a wealth of high-quality CBD products, ranging from CBD flowers and hashish, CBD oils, CBD vaporizers and CBD creams, to CBD veterinary products. Whatever your cannabidiol needs are, you can be sure that Switzerland will meet them.

Where can I buy CBD in Switzerland?

Anywhere you can buy other things for adults (such as tobacco or alcohol): growshops, gas stations, kiosks, supermarkets, etc. It is easy for adults to buy a wide range of CBD products from reputable stores. Please note that CBD is legal in Switzerland for persons over 18 years of age.

What is the legal THC content for cannabis in Switzerland?

The THC limit for cannabis is 1% THC. This is a more relaxed cannabinoid regulation than its European counterparts, which face limits closer to 0.3%. The only other country with such a limit in Europe is the Czech Republic. Therefore, in Switzerland, cannabis containing 1% THC or more is considered narcotic and illegal.

Is recreational cannabis legal in Switzerland?

Not yet, but the first pilot project with recreational cannabis will start soon in Basel with a limited number of subjects and a limited amount of cannabis and its types (only dried flower and hashish).

Is it possible to grow marijuana at home in Switzerland?

Yes, but it must always have strains with less than 1% THC. Domestic cultivation of cannabis is possible in Switzerland, as long as the THC content of the herb remains below 1%.

Lukas Hurt
Cannabis activist : Journalist focusing on cannabis-related issues in Central Europe

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