Switzerland will allow Europe’s first non-medical cannabis dispensaries to open and operate as part of a study to examine how controlled access to legal cannabis may affect health and consumption patterns of regular cannabis consumers.
An announcement was made Friday about “Grashaus Projects” by German CBD and cannabinoid research company Sanity Group which said that in tandem with the Swiss Institute for Addiction and Health Research, their initiative to dispense legal cannabis to a small area in Switzerland called Basel-Landschaft had been approved by the Swiss government. Basel-Landschaft is home to just under 4,000 Swiss citizens who are eligible to serve as participants in the study.
The study will be led by Prof. Dr. Michael Schaub, Scientific Director of the Swiss Institute for Addiction and Health Research. The cannabis for the study will be provided by a Swiss cultivation company called SwissExtract and will include a variety of different cannabis mediums like flower, hash, extracts and so on.
“Our claim is to provide high-quality products with high delivery reliability as the basis for a sound scientific study. We focus on organic quality, ‘Swissness’ and transparency,” said CEO of SwissExtract Stefan Strasser. “As only natural substances are used in the cultivation of our basic raw material, we guarantee pollutant-free products. The entire value chain is united under one roof with us – cultivation, processing and packaging take place exclusively in Switzerland; in addition, we document the production process from the plant seed to the end product. SwissExtract is a life’s work for us, with sincerity towards people and the environment.”
An initial store opening is planned for the fourth quarter of 2023 in Allschwil with a subsequent store opening planned a few months later in Liestal. The study is slated to last five years. Prof. Dr. Shaub explained in a written statement that the study will begin by determining the health and eligibility of their chosen participants, and then continue with regular medical checks and mental health checks as the study progresses.
“After an initial information event to educate about the trial and how to deal with cannabis, a medical aptitude test of the potential participant:s will follow, as well as an online entry survey. If successfully accepted into the study, cannabis can then be obtained legally at the point of sale for a limited time in the future with a participation card,” Prof. Dr. Shaub said. “Continuous surveys on consumption behavior and the physical and mental health of the participants will take place every three to six months,”
The results of the study will be used to determine what, if any, public health implications adult-use cannabis availability might inflict on Switzerland as well as the rest of Europe, the majority of which is bound by the laws of the European Union which Switzerland is not a part of. The EU has thus far maintained a stringent stance against the legalization of adult-use cannabis. Certain other countries like Germany and Spain have begun implementing loose framework to begin transitioning out of prohibition-era policies against cannabis but progress has been limited.
Germany, for instance, allows for cultivation, possession and cannabis social clubs but not for legal sales. Leadership of the Grashaus Projects have expressed hope that this step toward legal cannabis sales in Europe will provide much-needed data that other countries can use to determine how they can best regulate cannabis sales, as well as to help provide patients resources for mental health or addiction problems should any arise as a result of adult-use cannabis sales.
“The insights gained from the study can contribute to an informed health policy discussion on the responsible use of cannabis and serve as a basis for decisions on long-term regulation,” said Prof. Dr. Schaub in a statement. “In addition, we want to investigate whether we can gain better access to high-risk users with, for example, mental health problems, in order to refer them to appropriate cantonal care centers.”
Switzerland has actually granted several Swiss cities individual approval to start their own pilot cannabis programs. Zurich, Basel, Biel/Bienne, Lucerne, Geneva and “Bern,” no pun intended, have all received approval in the last year to begin similar programs. According to a Forbes article, Zurich actually is still seeking 400 people to participate in its cannabis program because the area generally lacks cannabis consumers.