The Swiss government has approved plans to legalize cannabis consumption and sales in Zurich, a test which will evaluate the financial and health benefits of regulating recreational drug supplies.
“The idea is to get robust real world evidence that serves policymaking for new [national] regulation on cannabis,” said Barbara Burri, project manager at Zurich’s municipal health department said.
As part of the three-and-a-half-year science study, which starts this summer, 2,100 residents of Switzerland’s biggest city will be allowed to purchase regulated dosages of cannabis for personal use, as long as they agree to fill out a questionnaire about their consumption habits and health every six months.
Some European authorities are trying to follow US states’ lead and liberalize laws around cannabis consumption.
In Germany, the government unveiled plans for the country-wide legalization of the drug—under strict conditions—in October of last year. There is no clear timeline yet for legislation to pass in Germany.
The Swiss government’s announcement follows the federal health ministry’s final endorsement Tuesday.
Cannabis will be made available to participants for purchase in pharmacies, specialty dispensaries, and community clubs throughout Zurich starting in July, with prices that may adjust to reflect changes in black-market prices.
According to Swiss Public Health Surveys, 1 out of 3 adults has tried cannabis. In Zurich, a city with 400,000 residents, it is estimated that 13,000 residents are frequent users.
Participants will have a choice among products containing varying levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, an active ingredient in cannabis.
Higher-potency varieties will be available, with concentrations up to 20 percent THC. All products will be carefully controlled for purity, organically produced by Swiss-licensed companies.
Evidence from the trials will be published in series starting next year. Entry into the program will be open to everyone aged over 18, except pregnant women, professional drivers, and adults showing any signs of addiction or of ill-health as a consequence of their drug use.
Just over one-third of Swiss citizens voted for legalization of cannabis in the 2008 referendum, but opinions have shifted considerably since then. Parliament passed a change in the country’s Narcotics Act in September 2020 that allows “pilot” legalization of cannabis.
The Swiss city of Basel launched a small-scale legalization trial of cannabis consumption in September. Zurich completed a trial-schema proposal in July.