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Switzerland: Zurich advances with pilot project to sell cannabis to adult residents



Photo: DR | Cannavigia

The Swiss government has given the green light to the city of Zurich to launch an experimental program that will authorize the consumption and sale of cannabis to adults, starting this summer. The pilot project is part of Switzerland's efforts to assess the real effects of the legalization of adult cannabis use on its population.

The project titled "Züri Can – Cannabis with Responsibility“, designed by the State of Zurich in partnership with the Zurich University Hospital, aims to investigate the impact of the regulated supply of cannabis on the consumption and health of users, monitored through the software Cannabis Dispensary System, from Cannavigia, owned by Vigia AG. O Federal Public Health Office (FOPH), the public health center of the Swiss federal government, approved the project on the 21st of March.

More than 2.000 Zurich residents could be covered by the project

The three-year program aims to provide relevant information on the best possible way to deal with cannabis, investigating how participants' consumption and health are affected by the purchase of selected cannabis products from controlled cultivation under regulated conditions, seeking to compare the advantages and disadvantages of various supply points, cannabis products and the current state of the illegal market to promote public health, safety and protection of minors.

Around 2.100 Zurich residents could be eligible to purchase regulated doses of cannabis for personal use in exchange for completing a questionnaire every six months about their drinking habits and health.

Applications to participate in the project are now open., with some requirements, such as being a resident of Zurich, being over 18 years old, being an active cannabis user for at least one year and having a good knowledge of German. Participation is prohibited for pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding, as well as professional drivers and adults who show signs of drug addiction or health problems due to abusive consumption.

Participants can purchase cannabis from pharmacies, special dispensaries and social clubs located in Zurich. Prices for these regulated cannabis products will reflect changes in illegal market prices.

A total of 21 supply points for the cannabis study are expected to be available and sales to begin in August 2023.

Participants will have the option of choosing from a variety of products with different concentrations of THC and CBD, strictly controlled for their purity and exclusively produced by licensed Swiss companies, in organic mode.

Cannavigia monitors traceability

As is already happening in Basel, Vigia AG is the official partner of FOPH for tracking and traceability of the pilot programmes. The partnership between the government and the technology company in the cannabis industry will allow for maximum transparency and traceability of the project in Zurich. Through Cannabis Dispensary System, In addition to Vigia AG's current Cannavigia software system, it will be possible for companies growing cannabis for projects to monitor their cultivation and supply chain, ensuring the quality of the final products.

The software also allows dispensaries to register study participants, track sales, and ensure that only authorized people can purchase products. This ensures consumer protection and results in a transparent and traceable supply chain that can be maintained even in a future legalized environment. O Cannabis Dispensary System provides FOPH with an overview of cannabis circulation in Switzerland and supports the reporting obligation to the UN International Narcotics Control Board.

Products will be available from July 2023

After government approval, the Pure Production AG and swissextract will be able to start growing the cannabis plants needed for the study. The first harvest is expected to take place in July 2023, while hashish products, which take longer to produce and require more complex processing, should be available in the last half of October 2023.

Zurich is the second Swiss city to participate in the pilot program that aims to study the effects of the legalization of cannabis in Switzerland, with Basel being the first to start regulated cannabis sales for adult/recreational use at the end of January.

Meanwhile, several other European countries are also investing in studying the impact of cannabis legalization, with the Germany focusing attention on its intention to introduce a law in the coming weeks to legalize the adult use of cannabis. A Czech Republic announced its goal to legalize cannabis after having observed the German initiative, but has not yet revealed the details of its plan. Belgium and Luxembourg were expected to implement cannabis reforms that would allow personal cultivation for home use, but their legislation has yet to be finalized.

Currently, Malta is the only European country to have legalized cannabis for adult use, including self-cultivation, with the processes of registration for obtaining licenses for creating cannabis associations.


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