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Swiss government backs scientific trials into cannabis use

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Swiss government backs scientific trials into cannabis use
File photo: Depositphotos
08:10 CEST+02:00
Switzerland’s Federal Council announced on Wednesday it wants to give the go-ahead to scientific trials into cannabis use in the country.

In a statement, the government noted that cannabis use in Switzerland is on the rise despite laws prohibiting its use. The black market is flourishing and people are at risk because the quality of cannabis consumed cannot be guaranteed, Bern said.

For these reasons, the government wants to tweak drug legislation, allowing for scientific trials into the impact of recreational cannabis use on health and public safety.

Read also: Could medical cannabis be the next cash cow for Swiss farmers?

A number of Swiss cities and cantons have previously asked the Federal Office of Publish Health (FOPH) to be allowed to run such studies but have been turned down because of a lack of a legal framework.

The proposed new changes should now allow those studies to go ahead.

But the government noted any trials run will be short-term and have a limited number of participants. Under 18s will be prohibited from taking part and current laws on cannabis use will stay in place.

The government's plans are now up for consultation until October 25th.

200,000 regular cannabis users

Some 200,000 people in Switzerland regularly consume cannabis for recreational purposes, the Federal Council said in its statement on Wednesday. In 2012, 11 percent of 15 to 39-year-olds regularly consumed cannabis, according to official figures.

Cannabis is illegal in Switzerland though the law was relaxed in 2013. Instead of facing criminal proceedings, adults caught with ten grams or less of pot can be subjected to a 100-franc spot fine, though that is enforced to varying degrees across the country. 

Easier access to medical cannabis

The health ministry also wants to make access to medical cannabis easier.

The FOPH noted around 3,000 people were treated with medical cannabis in 2017 – often older people or patients with the final stage of cancer or other terminal diseases.

Currently, these people have to apply for permission to use medical cannabis on a case-by-case basis. This makes access difficult and delays treatment.

The Federal Department of Home Affairs now has until summer 2019 to come up with possible regulations to change the current situation while the health ministry is set to to look at whether health insurance companies can cover the costs for patients using medical cannabis.

Read also: Five Swiss cities among top ten in Europe for cocaine use

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