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Cannabis in Switzerland

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Legalisation booth in Zurich

Cannabis in Switzerland is illegal, though minor possession was decriminalised to a fine in 2012. Several cantons began to allow adults to cultivate and use cannabis in 2012, but this was struck down by federal courts. In 2016, four cities stated they were looking into establishing pilot cannabis clubs. The number of cannabis users in Switzerland is estimated to be around 500,000 among a population of 8 million.[1]


Cannabis that contains more than 1.0% THC is classified as an illegal drug in Switzerland.[2] Thus, according to the Federal Law on Drugs: the production, culture, use, and possession of cannabis, are all prohibited and considered as criminal infringements.[3] These infringements are punishable by up to three years of imprisonment and/or a fine.

Since 2017, legal cannabis, also known as "low-THC weed", with less than 1.0% of THC is sold at nearly every tobacco store. In March 2019, a Swiss Federal Administrative Court upheld the taxation scheme by customs officials, which impose a tax of CHF38 ($37.70) per kilo (2 lb) as well as 25% of the retail revenue.[4] CBD cannabis is commonly used in Switzerland, but a number of complications are present due to its cultivation, as law enforcement first has to determine whether the cannabis variety tests below 1% THC. If this is the case, the police is obliged to return confiscated cannabis material. For traffic infractions, it plays no role if CBD or THC cannabis is consumed. The THC level in legal CBD cannabis is high enough to render a drug test positive for THC, and therefore the driver will be prosecuted for driving under the influence of the drug.[5]

Medical use[edit]

Currently only one narcotic cannabis drug preparation is officially approved for medical use in Switzerland.[6] However, with the adoption of a revision in the Federal Act on Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances (NarcA), accepted by popular vote in 2008, and in effect since 2011, Swiss physicians can obtain a special permit from the Federal Office of Public Health for their patients with the allowance to prescribe medical cannabis for 12 months. Only two pharmacies in the country are permitted to dispense cannabis tinctures and cannabis oil concentrates for patients with serious or terminal illnesses. Treatment options with cannabis flower or cannabis resin are not available.[7]

An official cannabidiol preparation (Epidiolex) for rare forms of epilepsy was approved by the FDA in June 2018, and by the European Medicines Agency in September 2019. Since then, Swiss pharmacies are allowed to prepare and dispense medicinal products containing cannabidiol as a magistral formulation and prescription drug (not subject to the Narcotics Act), in accordance with current German Drug Codex DAC/NRF and Swiss pharmacopeial standards.[8]

Reform attempts[edit]

In 2001, the Swiss federal council committed to implement changes as to decriminalisation of personal use and possession, and the Parliament was tasked to tender concrete approaches.

An attempt to decriminalise possession and consumption of cannabis failed narrowly in Parliament in 2004.[9] As a reaction, a popular initiative ("Eidgenössische Volksinitiative für eine vernünftige Hanf-Politik mit wirksamem Jugendschutz") to amend the constitution to legalise cannabis was introduced 2004.[10]

A referendum was launched in 2008.[11][12] Results from the November 2008 referendum showed 36.7% of those voting supported legalising cannabis.[10][13]


Since 28 September 2012, the possession of less than 10 grams (⅓ oz) of cannabis was no longer a criminal infringement, but was still punished by a 100 Swiss francs flat fine.[14] Professional cannabis trade, as well as the possession of a quantity of cannabis that can affect the health of a large number of people (4 kg; 9 lb of hashish, according to the Federal Court[15]), are punished by one to three years of imprisonment that can be augmented with a fine.[3]

In September 2017, the Federal Court ruled that the flat fine for the sole possession of small amounts has been applied incorrectly since 2013. Only the consumption of cannabis can be fined, not the possession by itself.[16] As a consequence, most cantonal police departments changed their policy towards stopping the prosecution of small amounts of cannabis, while others had already done so earlier.[17] However, the cantons of Geneva, Vaud, Valais, Neuchâtel, Jura, Ticino, St. Gallen and both Appenzell still retained their old policy.[18]

The Federal Court further decided in July 2023 that the sole possession of up to 10 grams (⅓ oz) of cannabis which is not meant for sale is completely legal and therefore the police cannot confiscate this amount. Nevertheless, the fine and confiscation is still due if consumption is present.[19]

With the exception of a few cannabis clubs in larger Swiss cities, requiring extensive bureaucratic paperwork to be a member, Cannabis consumers in Switzerland are relying on the black market to obtain cannabis. In 2023, synthetic cannabinoids have also been increasingly consumed in Switzerland, with detrimental health effects for the user. In Germany and other European countries, the growing of a limited amount of THC cannabis plants is legal, and cannabis up to 25g per person is no longer considered a narcotic in Germany. Switzerland has favoured criminal prosecution of natural cannabis cultivation, and invested very little expertise in the research of the drug[20][21][22]

Canton legalisation and reversal[edit]

On 5 October 2012, the Federal Court invalidated the agreement on cannabis growing and trading that came into force on 1 January 2012, which allowed private citizens in the cantons of Geneva, Freiburg, Valais, Vaud, Neuchâtel, Basel-Stadt and Ticino to grow up to four cannabis plants (containing less than 1.0% of THC), for violating the federal law on drugs.[23]

Renewed legalisation attempts[edit]

On 11 September 2018, a parliamentary initiative by the Green Party, that demanded a law on regulation of cultivation, trade, recreational consumption, youth protection, and taxing of cannabis, was rejected in the National Council by 104 to 86 votes.[24][25] Meanwhile the "Legalize It" organization is preparing a second popular initiative, originally set to launch in April 2018.[26][needs update]

Pilot trials[edit]

In Switzerland, pilot trials for recreational cannabis dispensing are currently underway.

Genesis of the project[edit]

In 2016, the cities of Geneva, Basel, Bern, and Zürich stated that they planned to establish pilot cannabis clubs to gauge their utility, limited to 2,000 members total and to be studied for four years.[1] Those pilot projects have been shut down by the Federal Office of Public Health in November 2017 because of the lack of legal basis. In December 2017, an absolute majority of members of both parliamentary chambers signed a parliamentary motion to change the law.[27] However, in June 2018, the motion was narrowly rejected by the National Council after it had passed the Council of States.[28] In July 2018, the Federal Council sent a proposition for future cannabis studies to the parliament anyway.[29]

In 2019, Swiss parliament stopped a research project by the University of Bern that intended to make cannabis available for scientific studies. Particularly members of the conservative-right Swiss People’s Party and Centrists voted against the continuation of research in the field. In the meantime, registered cannabis preparations as well as the herb drug made it into mainstream medicine, and cannabis research has moved to the forefront of modern pharmacological research, particularly in the Americas and in countries with regulated, legal cannabis use.[30]

Legal changes[edit]

On 25 September 2020, the Swiss parliament approved an amendment to the Federal Act on Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances (NarcA), which came into effect on 15 May 2021. The amendment provides the legal basis for scientific trials with selected groups of recreational cannabis users residing in Switzerland, and establishes a federally regulated cultivation and harvesting process for narcotic cannabis with dosage/potency limitations (20% THC), limits for pesticide residues, and warning label requirements. Additives to cannabis products will also have to undergo federal approval, and need to be declared. Federal ordinances will remain in effect for 10 years, determining the individual criteria for trial participants, and regulating the national production and trade of psychotropic cannabis (made in Switzerland).[31]

In parallel, in October 2021, a parliamentary commission ruled cannabis should no longer be banned and Switzerland is going to draw up a draft law for the legalisation of cannabis "for better youth and consumer protection”.[32]

A number of larger Swiss cities and municipalities have expressed interest to participate in the pilot trials, but will have to prove first that recreational cannabis is not negatively affecting the well-being of the general population. Starting in 2022, approved Swiss cannabis users will have the opportunity to obtain cannabis at local pharmacies under these strict regulations set forth by the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH).[33]

First pilot projects[edit]

The FOPH has authorised 19 April 2022 the first pilot test of an adult buyer program for recreational use of cannabis in Basel. This is expected to provide data on the way forward to regulate purchasing and consumption of recreationally used cannabis.

The program is expected to last 2 years and will include 400 adult volunteers who are to have their health monitored. The program, developed over the course of 6 years, was held up for legal reasons but the narcotics law was changed in 2021 and in August of that year was allowed to move forward.

Four cannabis strains will be made available, and two strains of hash will be available to a small group of approved volunteers in 10 pharmacies in Basel, produced by Pure Holding A.G. Participants of the program are to be warned not to share their cannabis with non-participants or they may be removed from the trial program. [34]

Originally scheduled to begin in September 2022, the "Weed Care" program started on 31 January 2023 with the possibility for a first half of the 374 participants to buy cannabis legally.[35] The study will last until March 2025 at least.


The penalties imposed in practice also vary among cantons to a certain degree. The 2007 penalty guidelines adopted by the Bernse Judges' Association provide as follows:[36]

Infraction Penalty
Possession of less than 10 grams (⅓ oz) of cannabis not meant for sale no fine but confiscation of the drug. Depending on the canton, if use is present, a fine and registration of the user is imposed anyway.
Consumption of soft drugs in normal cases (first infraction, or minor quantity, or brief period of consumption) Fine of 100 CHF or more (depending on the accused's financial circumstances).
Consumption of soft drugs, repeated infractions Increasing fine or monetary penalty (depending on the severity of the infraction and the accused's financial circumstances).
Trade in soft drugs, up to 100 g (3½ oz) Monetary penalty of 1–5 daily rates. The daily rate is set by the court and usually amounts to roughly one thirtieth of the accused's monthly income.[37]
Trade in soft drugs, 100 g to 1 kg (3½ oz to 2 lb) Monetary penalty of 5–30 daily rates.
Trade in soft drugs, 1 kg (2 lb) or more Monetary penalty of more than 30 daily rates.
Possession of more than 4 kg (9 lb) One to three years of imprisonment[3][15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "'Cannabis clubs' set for four Swiss cities - The Local". Thelocal.ch. 18 November 2016. Retrieved 23 November 2016.
  2. ^ See the Interior Department Edict on Drugs 30/05/2011
  3. ^ a b c "RS 812.121 Loi fédérale du 3 octobre 1951 sur les stupéfiants et les substances psychotropes (Loi sur les stupéfiants, LStup)". Admin.ch. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  4. ^ "THC-lite:Court confirms legal weed should be taxed as tobacco". swissinfo.ch. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  5. ^ "Using CBD and driving: should you choose?" naturalpes.ch. Retrieved 9 January 2024.
  6. ^ Zulassung Sativex®, Spray zur Anwendung in der Mundhöhle (cannabis sativae folii cum flore extractum spissum) swissmedic.ch. 11-02-2013. Retrieved 20 November 2018.
  7. ^ Medizinal-Cannabis Schweiz Archived 30 December 2021 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 20 November 2018.
  8. ^ Products containing cannabidiol (CBD) Overview and implementation guide 05.07.2019 (third updated version). swissmedic.ch. Retrieved 25 September 2019.
  9. ^ See documentation available under docket no. 01.024 Archived 2008-01-15 at the Wayback Machine on the Parliament website.
  10. ^ a b Eidgenössische Volksinitiative 'für eine vernünftige Hanf-Politik mit wirksamem Jugendschutz', admin.ch – Swiss government, for results see: "Abstimmung Nr. 538". Retrieved 2013-09-05.
  11. ^ Bundesgesetz vom 3. Oktober 1951 über die Betäubungsmittel und die psychotropen Stoffe (Betäubungsmittelgesetz, BetmG), Admin.ch, 12 June 1981, retrieved 17 February 2011
  12. ^ de:Eidgenössische Volksinitiative "für eine vernünftige Hanf-Politik mit wirksamem Jugendschutz"
  13. ^ "Swiss approve prescription heroin". BBC News Online. 30 November 2008. Retrieved 30 November 2008.
  14. ^ "FF 2012 7539" (PDF). Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  15. ^ a b Cf. the Federal Court judgement ATF 109 IV 143
  16. ^ Michael Knodt (21 September 2017), Swiss Federal Court Okays 10g of Cannabis, Marijuana.com, retrieved 30 December 2017
  17. ^ Glarus und Graubünden werden bei Hanfbesitz lockerer (in German), Suedostschweiz.ch, 29 September 2017, retrieved 30 December 2017
  18. ^ Kantönligeist in der Cannabis-Politik (in German), Blick.ch, 13 February 2018, retrieved 24 February 2018
  19. ^ Cannabis: bis 10 Gramm Eigenkonsum keine Beschlagnahmung möglich (in German), SRG SSR, 24 July 2023, retrieved 28 July 2023
  20. ^ "Crisis on Zurich’s weed market" hellozurich.ch. Retrieved 9. Jan. 2034.
  21. ^ "Luxemburg legalisiert privaten Anbau und Konsum von Cannabis" (in German) zeit.de. Retrieved 9. Jan 2024.
  22. ^ "German cabinet OKs landmark bill over legal cannabis use" Reuters. Retrieved 9 Jan. 2024.
  23. ^ "Justice: Le TF annule le concordat latin sur la culture du chanvre - Suisse". Le Matin. lematin.ch. 5 October 2012. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  24. ^ "Cannabis, Einbürgerung, Führerausweisentzug: Das hat der Nationalrat beschlossen" (in German). aargauerzeitung.ch. 11 September 2018. Archived from the original on 14 September 2018. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  25. ^ "Bundesgesetz zur Hanfregulierung (neues Schweizer Hanfgesetz)" (in German). Archived from the original on 23 December 2019. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  26. ^ "Hanfgesetz ist im Nationalrat chancenlos" (in German). blick.ch. 11 September 2018. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  27. ^ "Im Bundeshaus startet die grosse Cannabis-Offensive" (in German). AargauerZeitung.ch. 14 December 2017. Archived from the original on 30 December 2017. Retrieved 30 December 2017.
  28. ^ Rüdiger, Esthy (11 June 2018). "Der Nationalrat sagt Nein zu Cannabis-Studien – das würden sie für die Schweiz bedeuten". Neue Zürcher Zeitung (in German). nzz.ch. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  29. ^ "Bundesrat will Cannabis-Pilotversuche ermöglichen". Neue Zürcher Zeitung (in German). nzz.ch. 4 July 2018. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  30. ^ "No cannabis for scientific studies, says Swiss parliament" swissinfo. Retrieved 9 January 2024.
  31. ^ Pilot trials with cannabis Federal Office of Public Health. bag.admin.ch. Retrieved 30 July 2021.
  32. ^ "Switzerland to legalise recreational and medical cannabis usage". The Local Switzerland. 19 October 2021. Retrieved 23 October 2021.
  33. ^ Kurz Z (27.01.2021) "Legaler Verkauf von Cannabis in Schweizer Apotheken" (in German) Pharmazeutische Zeitung.de. Retrieved 30 July 2021.
  34. ^ "Switzerland To Launch Adult-Use Cannabis Sale Trial Program This Summer". The Local Switzerland. 5 May 2022. Retrieved 5 May 2022.
  35. ^ "For the first time in Switzerland, few selected people can legally buy cannabis for recreational use as part of a study". 30 January 2023.
  36. ^ Verband Bernischer Richter und Richterinnen (VBR) / Association des juges bernois (AJB) (1 January 2007). Richtlinien für die Strafzumessung (in German) (2 / 2006 ed.). p. 27.
  37. ^ Annex to the Guidelines, op.cit., p. 3.

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