Since 2011, the sale of cannabis products containing up to one percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the ingredient that makes users high – has been legal in Switzerland.
These legal products won’t make you stoned but have proven hugely popular, especially in recent years.
Tax revenues from legal cannabis as a tobacco alternative hit 15.1 million francs (€13.5 million) last year, up from just 400,000 three years earlier, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) told Swiss weekly SonntagsZeitung.
Most smokers of the products are young, a survey from Addiction Switzerland suggests. Respondents touted the benefits of their active component cannabidiol (CBD), saying it helped with sleep problems and stress, while promoting well-being.
Proponents also say CBD is an anti-depressive and an anti-inflammatory in addition to being good for fighting pain.
But critics warn that when these low-THC products are mixed with tobacco, they can lead to nicotine addiction and the resultant health risks including cancer.
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.
Meanwhile, the future of cannabis legislation remains unclear.
In February, the Swiss government came out in support of scientific trials into the impact of cannabis use on public health and safety. Under the plans, thousands of people could ‘legally’ receive a small amount of cannabis every month, including edibles, while participating in those trials.