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Basel, Switzerland Becomes First Canton To Kick Off Recreational Cannabis Trial

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The trial will allow up to 400 participants to buy their cannabis in pharmacies – in exchange for being study participants

Here is the great news. Switzerland is moving ahead with its recreational cannabis trial. The first canton to be approved by the federal government, Basel, will allow a very limited number of adults (over 18) to buy and consume cannabis legally, beginning in September.

Here are the other prerequisites. Participants will have to participate in a formal study over the next 2.5 years to determine the impact of consumption on their physical and mental health. Participants will also not be allowed to resell the cannabis they purchase. Anyone who does will be both penalized and ejected from the study.

Other municipalities, including Zurich, Geneva, and Bern all still have their applications pending – but are also expected to be given the green light in the near term.

According to official estimates, there are about 220,000 regular recreational cannabis users in Switzerland. This seems a bit low in a country of about 8.5 million people. Everywhere else, cannabis users represent about 10% of the population. However, other places, especially in North America, have not segmented out medical vs recreational users as their markets get going.

Only time will tell.

Medical cannabis is legal in Switzerland – however, just like in other places, it remains extremely expensive and hard to come by. Physicians must obtain special approval to prescribe and at present, there are only 2 pharmacies allowed to dispense it.

Why Does the Swiss Trial Matter?

For those used to legalization in other jurisdictions, the Swiss approach seems a bit limited and more than a lot complicated and bureaucratic. However, it represents, in its own way, an important step in Europe towards recreational reform, which has been fought if not delayed almost everywhere by authorities and politicians alike.

This trial will, undoubtedly, reveal what those in North America already know, albeit with less formal data to support it. Namely, those who consume cannabis are not criminals, couch potatoes, or drawn from the dregs of society.

Beyond this, however, a formal trial will begin to finally and definitively answer many of the questions if not counter persistent stereotypes that are still being thrown about by those who oppose the inevitable. Namely consuming cannabis is less harmful than alcohol, and those who consume other illicit drugs, along with prescription substances, tend to use less of these as they transition to cannabis.

Of course, the trial is also being avidly watched just about everywhere else in Europe where the question of legalization is a burning political issue, no matter how many people downplay its importance.

The data from the Swiss trial is also likely to show up in every debate going forward, starting with DACH trading partner Germany.