Several thousand people will soon be able to obtain cannabis legally. The pilot project is even convincing to prevention experts, according to former Federal Councilor Ruth Dreifuss. But it’s delayed.
A political dream has come true for former Federal Councilor Ruth Dreifuss. Your home canton of Geneva is submitting its dossier for a cannabis pilot project to the Federal Office of Public Health (BAG) this week. If everything goes according to plan, a maximum of 1,500 people will have the opportunity to legally buy cannabis in Geneva as early as summer 2023.
According to one Monitoring of Geneva University Hospitals more than 5,300 people across Switzerland were interested in participating in cannabis pilot projects. The cities of Basel, Bern, Lausanne and Zurich are now launching such projects. 80 percent of the applicants were male. On average, they were 30.4 years old and had been using cannabis at least 20 days per month and since the age of 16. They give various reasons for consumption. This ranges from “Because I can sleep better” to “Because I can enjoy parties better with it”.
science is involved
82-year-old Ruth Dreifuss has played a leading role in the Geneva pilot project since 2013. Even the supply chain is planned down to the last detail. The cannabis plants and harvest organic farmers in Geneva and Vaud. Once packaged and checked, the products are sold in so-called cannabinotheques at prices similar to those on the black market. The cannabis shops are run by an association that must ensure that cannabis only gets into the hands of those authorized to participate in the pilot project. The participants are scientifically accompanied by a sociologist and a doctor.
Former Federal Councilor Dreifuss is convinced of the success of the pilot project. At the project presentation, she said: “The participants will form a community and exchange ideas with each other to expand their knowledge about consumption.” According to Dreifuss, the trial is particularly advantageous for those cannabis consumers who support liberalization. Older people who use cannabis to sleep better and do not want to use medicinal products would also benefit. One thing is particularly important to Geneva’s Health and Safety Director Mauro Poggia: “With the decriminalization of cannabis, we are fighting the black market with its mafia-like structures.” Poggia says that people have long since realized that trying to stop the trade in repressive means is a dead end.
“It’s about reducing the harm of cannabis use to consumers.”
Frank Zobel, Vice Director Addiction Switzerland
Like Geneva, the cities of Zurich, Bern and Lausanne will soon be introducing legal cannabis sales on a trial basis. The Swiss Addiction Foundation, which conducts addiction prevention and research, is involved in the pilot projects. In the Lausanne project “Cann-L” it even takes on the role of the research institute. For Frank Zobel, Vice Director of Addiction Switzerland, this is the right decision and not inconsistent with the purpose of the foundation. He says: “It’s about reducing the harm of cannabis use to users. Long-term users can buy cannabis legally, but we in no way encourage consumption and consistently enforce the protection of minors.»
In order to stay in the projects, consumers have to fill out complete questionnaires that scientists evaluate. Frank Zobel assumes that some study participants will not be able to keep this up in the long term, but it is clear that 19 US states and various European countries are making progress with cannabis legalization, says Zobel. “Switzerland should not stand aside from this development.”
Basel’s problems with organic hemp
Basel would have wanted to start its project on September 15 with 370 test subjects. But an unexpected incident is now causing a delay, which also has consequences for Zurich. Delivery company Pure noticed that their hash cannabis products weren’t that pure after all. Traces of a pesticide were found in the hashish and hemp flowers planted in the canton of Aargau. Now the FOPH has to decide what to do with the goods and whether the test persons should still smoke an organic product in view of the residues or whether the contamination is too great. However, the producer claims that he did not use the pesticide himself. Experts assume that the start of the Basel project will be delayed by three to four months, also because hemp can only be planted again next spring.
The Basel problems with organic grass now also have consequences for the Zurich project, because the same supplier is also involved in the research project “Zurich Can – Cannabis with responsibility”. From this autumn, around 2,000 consumers should have been able to purchase cannabis without being punished in pharmacies, the drug information center and so-called social clubs for the next three years, all under the supervision of the Psychiatric University Clinic of the Canton of Zurich. But now those affected must also be patient. Zurich not only has problems with organic hemp, but also with the supply points.
Philip Reichen has been the French-speaking Switzerland correspondent based in Lausanne since 2012. He studied history, philosophy and general constitutional law at the universities of Zurich and Freiburg im Breisgau.More info@PhilippeReichen