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Zurich, Switzerland, to Allow Recreational Cannabis Sales as a Pilot Program

17 September 2021
The country’s largest city will run a 3.5 year-long experiment that will legalize the sale of cannabis for adult use.
17 September 2021
1 min read
Zurich, Switzerland, to Allow Recreational Cannabis Sales as a Pilot Program

Next year, Zurich, the largest city in Switzerland, will launch a pilot program that will allow adults to legally buy and consume various cannabis products. The decades-long ban on cannabis sales will be lifted for three and a half years. The experiment will encompass not only CBD products but also those containing THC, the main psychoactive component of cannabis.

The Federal Office of Public Health will be responsible for issuing permits to pharmacies to ensure the standards and quality of cannabis offered for sale. Other cities, such as Geneva and Bern, may soon follow the lead of Zurich.

A Long History of Harm-Reduction Approach

The City of Zurich will assess the results of the experiment with the aid of the psychiatric hospital of Zurich University. The officials say that the goal of this initiative is a search for a cannabis use model least harmful for the public. Running a 3.5-year-long trial will allow them to see how legalizing cannabis sale affects the consumption patterns and users' health.

One-third of Switzerland’s residents admit to having tried cannabis at least once, and about 200,000 say they use it regularly. However, the 2008 vote failed to decriminalize the personal use of the substance as almost two-thirds of the participants voted against it.

Favorable Legal Framework

The cities in the country are free to experiment with the models of cannabis legalization because, in May 2021, new changes to the Narcotics Act came into effect. They allow the testing of policies that regulate cannabis markets to see if they better promote public safety and reduce harm, especially to minors. The law was introduced in 2020 by the Swiss Parliament and laid the basis for a unique brand of large-scale, city-wide experimentations.