A nation known for its rational, pacifistic stance on geopolitics, it’s no surprise that Switzerland has proven capable of suspending disbelief regarding cannabinoids, embracing the benefits of hemp more than many EU neighbors. Switzerland is far from the most progressive European state on cannabis, but its approach is reasoned, commendable, and highly favorable to producers and retailers of non-THC cannabinoids.
What are the best angles to take when approaching the Swiss cannabinoid market? We’ve condensed the most relevant data and analytics on the subject in this guide.
Are cannabinoids legal in Switzerland?
Yes, most cannabinoids are legal for import and sale in Switzerland. For hemp products to be legal in Switzerland, they must contain less than 1% THC¹. Otherwise, they are subject to the same import and customs laws as any other natural products of a similar type.
Even THC is gradually becoming legal. As of August 2022, medical cannabis is obtainable in Switzerland with merely a doctor’s prescription². Before, applicants were forced to work with the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), an arduous and complicated process.
Switzerland is also unobtrusively testing a pilot adult-use cannabis program in Basel³ with intentions to expand to Zurich, Geneva, and other cities — if things go well. The Swiss approach can sometimes nearly be a caricature of caution, only proceeding with measures affecting public health after waiting an adequate amount of time to receive feedback in the form of votes.
For instance, favor for the liberalization of cannabis laws increased 12% between 2018 and 2021, which the Swiss government took as their cue to expand adult-use cannabis laws. So far, participants in the Basel pilot program praise the quality and reliability of the process and the products, boding well for the future of Swiss cannabis on the whole.
History of cannabis in Switzerland
Among European nations, Switzerland is perhaps the most famous for its rich history of cannabis cultivation⁴. Much has been lost to the sands of time, but historians have often noted the curious similarities between the Swiss flag and the emblem of the Knights Templar⁵, a mysterious organization once in control of much of the banking in Medieval Europe.
Lore around the Knights Templar insists that they were aficionados of cannabis⁶, perhaps thanks to misty ties with the hashishin cult from whom we derive the word “assassin.” It’s indisputable fact, also, that cannabis cultivation became associated with Switzerland from the Middle Ages thereforth and that the Swiss simultaneously took over the brunt of European banking — like the Templars before them.
Regardless of how much of the picture may be hidden, it’s fair to conclude that the Swiss, as a people, are no strangers to cannabis. Recent reversions of 20th-century laws are simply putting back in place a cannabis culture that has thrived among the Swiss since the founding of their nation in 1291⁷ — the same year as the fall of Acre⁸, considered to be the final, decisive defeat of the Knights Templar.
History of cannabis laws in Switzerland
Perhaps due to its unusual origins, Switzerland has always remained aloof from other European countries. It famously abstained from siding with any power in either World War, instead choosing to arm its citizenry in case of a need for national defense — a civil armament⁹ that continues to this day.
It should come as little surprise, therefore, that Switzerland also remained unaffected by the anti-drug laws that swept America-affiliated Europe in the wake of the US Congress approving the Controlled Substances Act of 1971. Switzerland remained so outside the scope of normative European (and even EU¹⁰) drug law, in fact, that it faced a serious heroin crisis in the 1980s and 1990s.
Always a nation to prioritize its citizens’ choices first, Switzerland allowed drug use to continue largely unchecked until the mid-1990s¹¹. Based on their behavior, the Swiss clearly wanted to use drugs, and their government did not feel comfortable stopping them outright.
Since taking action, Switzerland has maintained its usual balanced poise when dealing with domestic drug problems. In the case of seriously dangerous narcotics like heroin, addicts are treated humanely and offered extensive government-subsidized treatment. In the case of mostly misunderstood substances like cannabis, the Swiss have behaved with similar logical rationality, allowing programs to expand at a steady rate that keeps pace with public interest.
Which cannabinoids are legal in Switzerland?
Non-THC cannabinoids derived from hemp are all generally treated the same in Switzerland. The only salient requirement for producers is that no products, whether domestically produced or imported, contain more than 1% THC.
If THC content exceeds this threshold, the products will be considered marijuana, not hemp. Nonetheless, Swiss views on cannabis in general are relatively lax with the possession of small quantities decriminalized since 2012¹².
The Swiss government has made no indication that national adult-use cannabis will be available anytime soon. The more the Swiss people advocate for such a change, though, the faster it will arrive.
Is CBD legal in Switzerland?
Swiss law does not explicitly mention CBD. Instead, it makes the simple provision with which we’re already familiar: Hemp or cannabis products must contain less than 1% THC to be considered separate from marijuana. So, as long as they contain less than 1% delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, CBD products are legal in Switzerland.
Is CBG legal in Switzerland?
As a people that prides itself on standing apart, it’s unlikely that the emerging topic of CBG, CBN, and CBC products is even on the radar of Swiss officials at the moment. In any case, minor cannabinoids such as these will likely be treated the same as CBD — if the THC content is under 1%, hemp is fully permissible in Switzerland.
Is THC legal in Switzerland?
As the primary substance identified as “marijuana,” THC can’t be considered strictly legal in Switzerland. However, Switzerland remains one of the world’s most pro-THC nations for the following reasons:
– Possession of small amounts of THC products is decriminalized
– Medical THC products are now available with a doctor’s prescription
– Adult-use THC programs are rolling out in select Swiss cities
For the purposes of starting a business, the time is not quite ripe to market THC in Switzerland yet. The era is not far off, though, when this alpine European nation might become one of the first to re-embrace cannabis fully.
Can you import cannabinoids into Switzerland?
Yes, most cannabinoids are viable for import into Switzerland. Importing cannabinoids into Switzerland is actually easier than it is in most countries, for two primary reasons:
1. Switzerland is not part of the EU or EEA¹³
2. The sole special requirement for imports is a 1% THC cutoff
The individuality of the Swiss stands in stark contrast to the collectivism of the European Union. When it comes to importing substances through customs, this individuality can be a massive benefit since the relevant bureaucracy is much less monolithic.
It will be necessary to sink a considerable amount of time and investment into acquiring access to just the single nation of Switzerland, however. In contrast, acceptance of cannabinoid products into one EU or EEA-affiliated state is tantamount to having them accepted in all others.
Are there cannabinoid manufacturers in Switzerland?
Domestic cannabinoid manufacturers in Switzerland remain few and far-between. At present, though, they supply the vast bulk of cannabinoid products made available to Swiss citizens.
The CBD and non-THC market is considerably less regulated, but both the Swiss medical and adult-use cannabis industries currently acquire their cannabinoid material solely from domestic producers. As a result, those attempting to enter the Swiss market would be advised to focus on non-THC cannabinoids for the time being.
For logistics purposes, launching a cannabinoid brand in Switzerland is made easier by having a supplier in the European region. The fact that Switzerland remains independent of Europe, however, provides more room for overseas manufacturers to state their case.
Summary: The Swiss Cannabinoid Renaissance is not far off
If there’s one country that knows Europe can’t be viewed as a single state, it’s Switzerland. Ever since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648¹⁴, in which it reasserted its status as an individual state not at the behest of larger European powers, Switzerland has resisted mass movements in the Euro-sphere, becoming world-famous for its unbiased impartiality.
In fact, Geneva, Switzerland has become the de-facto international capital of treaty-signing. All this is to say it should come as no surprise if Switzerland has not followed the overall push to open European markets to cannabis commerce.
That’s not to say Switzerland has directly opposed the expansion of its domestic cannabinoid economy. The nation’s lax stance on CBD and other non-THC cannabinoids combined with its evolving policies on medical and adult-use cannabis show that, on the contrary, the Swiss just insist on doing things their own way.
It’s not as if Switzerland and cannabinoids are antithetical to each other. Potential ties to the Templars aside, it’s a historical fact that Switzerland was one of the cannabis epicenters of Europe until the mid-20th century. Now it’s just a matter of ambassadors aligning themselves properly, accelerating a natural turn the Swiss have recently taken to be more welcoming of cannabis and all it can offer.
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