The Swiss legislature is considering a bill that would allow Cannabis research as well as a trial program for Amsterdam-style cannabis cafés in the European country.
The proposed trial would allow 1,000 people to purchase cannabis legally from government-approved establishments. The process would be evaluated and used as a base for any future cannabis legislation.
“There was a need for scientifically based decision-making principles for the future regulation of cannabis," Swiss Social Democrat Roberto Zanetti told Herb in reference to the bill, which has been unanimously passed by Switzerland's lower house and is now headed to the National Council for final confirmation.
This is not the first time that Switzerland has come close to legalizing cannabis. In 2001, the lower chamber of the Swiss parliament passed a legalization bill that was ultimately rejected by the National Council, which was under pressure from the United Nations to abide by international drug conventions that uphold cannabis prohibition around the world. France and Germany also influenced the decision by blaming Switzerland for the influx of illicit cannabis in their own countries.
But that didn't stop local 'Hanflädelis' (Hemp shops) from selling marijuana in Switzerland. The gray market stores began operating in the late 1990s after cannabis advocates discovered a loophole in the country's Narcotics Act that allowed for the sale of hemp for “aromatherapy.” Since the law made no distinction between hemp and marijuana based on THC content at the time, marijuana could technically be sold as long as it was locally grown and advertised as a form of aromatherapy.
Meanwhile, Swiss officials haven't been cracking down on minor cannabis offences since 2013, when the country decriminalized marijuana. In most cases, possession of up to 10 grams isn't punished. On top of that, the country now classifies anything up to 1% THC as a legal hemp product. Because of that, cannabidiol-bars have started to operate in Zurich.
So the trial program is the next step forward for Switzerland's long journey toward legalization.