Switzerland Launches Pilot Program for Cannabis Sales

Stephen Andrews
02 Feb 2023

In a first for Switzerland, authorities allowed the legal sale of cannabis for recreational use, but only in the city of Basel and for a limited number of selected participants. The pilot program aims to understand regulatory forms, such as controlled sales at pharmacies, and thus use those insights to prepare future legislation.

On January 30, Swiss authorities officially launched the Weed Care study, which allows a selected number of participants to freely buy cannabis goods at pharmacies in one of the country's biggest cities, Basel. 

Nearly 400 candidates were accepted into the program. All of them are residents of Basel who already consume cannabis and are of legal age. They can purchase weed at several pharmacies, including locations at the University of Basel and the city's University Psychiatric Clinics. The Swiss company Pure Production has been commissioned to supply cannabis for the retail effort. 

The pilot program will last for two and a half years. As part of the program, government regulators will strictly monitor participants. Those who can purchase weed are not allowed to share it with anyone outside the program. Also, everyone will be regularly interviewed on their consumption habit and the impact cannabis has on their physical and mental well-being. The data collected from the program will in effect determine what kind of cannabis legislation Switzerland will introduce in the future. 

The project is supported by the Swiss company Vigia AG, which provides a track and trace software called the Cannabis Dispensary System. The system was developed in partnership with the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), and its purpose is to document the dispensing of cannabis products. The software allows "to track the cannabis good transparently and gives the foundation for scientific research," the company said in a press release. 

"We are in an emerging industry where various paths to legalisation are currently being discussed. With a structured legalisation process, maximum conformity and transparency, Switzerland is setting an example. With our existing Cannavigia software and the Cannabis Dispensary System, we provide the various stakeholders involved with the necessary tools to track and document every step along the supply chain," the company statement adds. 

The software will keep record of all study participants, and it allows dispensaries to keep track of sales and individual quantities dispensed to participants. To ensure data protection, all information for the participants is collected under pseudonyms. 

The Weed Care study is an important step towards introducing a regulation to control the adult use consumption of cannabis in Switzerland. Legal cannabis is projected to reach a value of over $1 billion and may generate over 4,000 jobs in the Alpine country. 

Last year, in 2022, Swiss authorities also upgraded the country's medical cannabis law. Under the new legislation, medical cannabis patients can freely get prescriptions for cannabis medicines from their medical practitioner. Only CBD products with less than 1% THC are allowed for medicinal use. A couple more cannabis-oriented studies are underway in Switzerland, including special projects to gauge the effectiveness of medicinal cannabis. 

Way to go Switzerland!

Stephen Andrews