Swiss Navigates Towards Progressive Cannabis Regulation Amidst Debates

Swiss flag with Cannabis Plant on the back ground
Heinz Siegenthaler

On 28th September 2023, a significant move was made by the Swiss National Council, extending a parliamentary initiative led by Berner Mitte-Nationalrat Heinz Siegenthaler.

The initiative, titled "Regulation of the Cannabis Market for Better Youth and Consumer Protection, 20.473", has sparked various debates and discussions within the political and societal spheres of Switzerland.

The proposal emphasizes the necessity to legislate new regulations concerning the cultivation, production, trade, and consumption of THC-containing cannabis, aligning with the recommendations of the Swiss Federal Commission for Addiction Issues (EKSF).

The proposal underscores the need for a regulated market to meet the requirements of Swiss addiction policy. It advocates for a shift from prohibition towards a structured, regulated approach that addresses consumer protection, youth protection, and the potential economic and environmental benefits of cannabis cultivation and use.

The proposal calls for a comprehensive legal framework that can address the multifaceted issues related to cannabis in Switzerland, ensuring alignment with the nation’s drug and addiction policies.

The objectives of these new regulations

  • Adherence to the 4-Pillar Model: Ensuring that the Swiss drug policy, known as the 4-pillar model, is considered and integrated into the new regulations.
  • State Control: Implementing control over the production and trade of cannabis by state organs, focusing on youth protection, consumer protection, and information dissemination.
  • Market Segregation: Distinguishing between the medical and non-medical cannabis markets to ensure clear regulatory frameworks for each.
  • Eradicating the Black Market: Aiming to dry up the black market by lifting the prohibition on cannabis.
  • Taxation and Advertising: Establishing clear regulations regarding the taxation and promotion of cannabis.
  • Personal Use Cultivation: Regulating the cultivation of cannabis for personal use.

Context and Rationale

  • Current Consumption: It is noted that 300,000 individuals in Switzerland regularly consume cannabis as a psychoactive substance.
  • Inefficacy of Current Prohibition: The existing prohibition of cannabis, as per the Federal Act on Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances (BetmG), has been deemed insufficient in protecting the population. Despite the prohibition, consumption has not decreased, the black market thrives, and there is no quality control, thereby lacking consumer protection.
  • Youth Protection: Effective youth protection is emphasized, requiring a regulated market, especially since THC, like alcohol, is a psychoactive substance, and protecting minors is of paramount importance.
  • Revenue Utilization: Potential tax revenues should be invested in prevention and youth protection.
  • Addressing Known Issues: A sensible legal regulation is deemed necessary to address widely recognized problems related to cannabis consumption and trade.

Criticisms of the Current State

  • Lack of Control: The state currently relinquishes control over the existing market to illegal actors, leading to several negative effects, such as natural hemp plants being adulterated with artificial and toxic substances.
  • Consumer Protection: There is a lack of consumer protection, traceability, and consumer information, especially regarding THC value.
  • Environmental and Economic Potential: Hemp is highlighted as one of the most environmentally friendly and versatile crops, suitable for medical applications and as a renewable raw material, thus possessing noteworthy environmental and economic potential.
  • Inconsistency in Prohibition: The prohibition of cannabis, compared to legal drugs, is not based on current scientific arguments, especially since the harmfulness of tobacco and alcohol is not less. This moral and legal inconsistency is becoming increasingly unjustifiable.

Barbara Gysi: Steering Towards Comprehensive Regulation

Barbara Gysi, who heads the subcommittee responsible for implementing the initiative, has promised a "comprehensive regulation". She emphasized the importance of taking adequate time to develop a robust proposal, stating,

"It is truly important and correct to undertake these tasks with sufficient time." - Barbara Gysi

Opposition and Support: A Balancing Act

The extension of the initiative was not without opposition. A right-wing minority, notably Thurgauer SVP-Nationalrätin Verena Herzog, warned her colleagues about the potential violation of international law.

She argued that legalizing cannabis would not enhance youth protection but would lead to the opposite. Despite the resistance, the National Council voted decidedly for the extension, with 104 yes votes against 69 no votes.

Anticipating a Regulated Cannabis Market

The initiative is buoyed by broad societal support and the planned regulation in Germany, which is expected to be implemented from January 2024. In the election year 2023, the industry association tempered expectations for swift implementation.

The focus now shifts towards promptly developing a legislative draft and bringing it into consultation.

Implications for Youth and Consumer Protection

A sensible cannabis regulation forms the foundation for youth and consumer protection, quality assurance, combating the black market, and the sustainable development of the Swiss hemp industry, predominantly comprising small and medium-sized enterprises.

Through targeted regulation, the potential of the cannabis plant can be fully realized, positioning Switzerland as a global pioneer for an adequate regulatory model.

Additional Insights from External Sources

These resources provide additional perspectives and developments regarding cannabis regulation in Switzerland and other regions, offering a broader understanding of the implications and methodologies behind such regulatory shifts.

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Robin Roy Krigslund-Hansen

Robin Roy Krigslund-Hansen

About the author:

Robin Roy Krigslund-Hansen is known for his extensive knowledge and expertise in the fields of CBD and hemp production. With a career spanning over a decade in the cannabis industry, he has dedicated his life to understanding the intricacies of these plants and their potential benefits to human health and the environment. Over the years, Robin has worked tirelessly to promote the full legalization of hemp in Europe. His fascination with the plant's versatility and potential for sustainable production led him to pursue a career in the field.

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