Legal Cannabis Pilot Program Officially Launches in Switzerland
Pre-approved participants can now purchase cannabis at specific pharmacies and social clubs in Zurich for the next three years.
In Switzerland, a pilot program called “Züri Can – Cannabis with Responsibility” officially began on Aug. 22 and will run for three years, concluding in 2026. According to Swissinfo, a multilingual news source based in Sweden, participants may purchase cannabis at nine pharmacies and six social clubs, but can only consume them in private rooms, or in one of the designated social clubs.
The study includes 1,200 pre-approved participants (80% of which are men, ranging between 18 to 80 years of age) who are permitted to purchase legal cannabis. In order to apply, these participants were required to meet specific criteria, including living in one of the 12 districts of Zurich, having already consumed cannabis regularly for more than a year, having good knowledge of German, do not work as a professional driver (taxi, bus, etc.) in any capacity, and are not currently pregnant. Although the study is already underway, residents who meet the criteria can still apply for a chance to participate.
Participants are required to select one supply point, or cannabis pharmacy or club, and cannot change it after it is selected. After purchasing cannabis, participants will regularly be sent online surveys to study the impact of cannabis sales, as well as how it affects consumer health. “The trial will have a broad focus to gain data on the effects of different strengths of cannabis, on what helps individuals make informed decisions and on the pros and cons of different models of sale,” said Zurich municipal health department project manager, Barbara Burri.
The pilot program was first announced back in September 2021, but the program was delayed in October 2022 due to “complexity of the project with its differen[t] reference points.” However, the program received a green light earlier this year in March, when the Zurich city government and Zurich University Hospital approved two cultivators to be used for the program: Pure Production and Swissextract.
Pure Production currently offers two concentrates, Sour Pollen and Lemon Resin, for use in the study. “Today marks the start of the sale of cannabis products for the pilot project ‘Züri Can – Cannabis with Responsibility,’” Pure Production published on Instagram. “As proud partners, we’re elated to be part of this groundbreaking initiative. Pure Production AG has the honor to provide two distinct hash products and, in the near future, flower offerings, furthering our commitment to excellence and quality.”
On Swissextract’s website, the company describes its cannabis cultivation operation, which includes 2,500 plants grown in a 1,000 square meter greenhouse). “Three cannabis strains with an ideal cannabinoid and terpene profile were selected for the study: one with the maximum allowable THC content of 20%, one in the mid-range of 12-13%, and one that has a very balanced content of 10% THC and 10% CBD,” Swissextract wrote. The strain names include Cairo Dessert (Fruit Tartar x Sinai), Apricot Mimosa (Mimosa x Purple Apricot), and Wedding Cake (Triangle Kush x Animal Mints).
According to the Zurich study website, new products including Jurassic Gold and Grand Marais concentrates from Pure Production, and Super Lemon Haze and Sour Diesel strains from Swissextract, will become available after fall 2023.
There is also another Swizterland-based study awaiting launch, called SCRIPT (Safer Cannabis Research In Pharmacies), which is expected to begin in fall this year. The SCRIPT program received approval from the Federal Office of Public Health (BAG), the cantonal ethics committee of Bern, and ethics committee of Northwest and Central Switzerland, in May.
The study will be conducted by researchers from the University of Bern and Lucerne, and include the cities of Bern, Lucerne, and Biel. “The aim of the study is to investigate the health and social effects of a strictly regulated, non-profit-oriented sale of cannabis in pharmacies,” said SCRIPT study head Reto Auer. “Our study therefore does not aim to legalize cannabis in the free market—but to be able to address the problems caused by prohibition and the black market and to test possible harm reduction approaches, as well as a strict control of supply and distribution use demand for cannabis.”
As of July, the SCRIPT study has received 1,091 applications to participate. One SCRIPT applicant, referred to as E.S., is a 40-year -old individual who has been consuming since she was a teenager. In an interview with Swissinfo, she explained how cannabis has helped treat her menstrual pain, and is a reliable way to help her relax after work. “As a conscious consumer, I want to be able to decide what kind of cannabis to use,” she said. “Like a wine enthusiast, I want to discover the many varieties without depending on the black market.”
Swissinfo notes that it has taken more than 10 years for the SCRIPT program to finally begin. The last hurdle came in 2021 with the amendment of the Federal Act on Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances, which put regulations in place for scientific studies.