Under the plans, thousands of people could ‘legally’ receive a small amount of cannabis every month, including edibles, while participating in those trials.
But the Swiss government stressed any such trials would be very strictly controlled. All participants would have to be aged 18 years and over and would have to already be using the drug. They would also have to be resident in the municipality where a trial was being carried out.
In addition, all official participants would be granted a ‘cannabis ID’ as part of their involvement. They would be forbidden from passing the drug on, or reselling it.
The number of participants in any single study would also be capped at 5,000 while the maximum study duration would be five years.
Several Swiss cities and institutions have already expressed an interest in running such trials but the conservative-leaning Swiss parliament must now also green-light the plans before they can go ahead.
A previous attempt to get cannabis trials through the parliament failed with many lawmakers fearing it could be a first step to legalization.
The government has denied this, but has now tightened up protocols around the proposed trials to make them more acceptable for legislators.
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The executive argues that with over 200,000 Swiss people regularly using cannabis, alternative ways of regulating its use must be looked at urgently.
It says the present legal framework has given rise to a flourishing black market and means a lack of quality control. Meanwhile, legal costs associated with prohibition of the drug remain too high.
The plan now is to usher in a ten-year research period involving a number of studies. After that ten-year period is over, the government would assess the results of those studies and consider the next step.
Currently in Switzerland, consumption of cannabis containing up to one percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is legal. This is higher than the amount allowed in most of Europe but still not enough to get you high. Anything stronger is illegal.
However, in 2013, Switzerland decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis. 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.