If you’re unsure whether marijuana is legal in Switzerland or not, let us tell you that you are not the only one with this confusion. Citizens of the Swiss country themselves have a sort of ambiguity when it comes down to the Swiss police and its regulations about the use of cannabis.
So what is the real story?
Is cannabis legal in all cantons of Switzerland or not?
Well, yes and no, and it depends. If we look back in history, we can see that cannabis has been illegal in Switzerland ever since 1951.
However, based on Article 19b, since October 2013, having up to 10 grams of THC containing marijuana for consumption purposes is not considered a criminal offense. The consumption of marijuana, on the other hand, is still illegal. You can be charged with a CHF 100 fine if you are over the age of 18 and you get caught on by a police officer while possessing it. In addition to this, your cannabis will be confiscated.
Professional cannabis trade, as well as the possession of a quantity of cannabis that can affect the health of a large number of people, are punished by one to three years of imprisonment that can be augmented with a fine.
In September 2017, the federal court ruled that the flat fine for the sole possession of small amounts has been wrongly inflicted since 2013. Only the consumption of cannabis can be fined. As a consequence, most cantonal police departments changed their policy towards stopping the prosecution of small amounts of marijuana, while others had already done so earlier. However, the cantons of Geneva, Vaud, Valais, Neuchâtel, Jura, Ticino, St. Gallen, and both Appenzell still retain their old policy.
Types of Cannabis in Switzerland
Broadly speaking, there are two types of marijuana: Cannabis with a high amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the psychoactive compound that is responsible for the high that commonly gets associated with cannabis, and cannabis with a high amount of cannabidiol (CBD). However, let’s break them down by the effect they have on users’ lives.
1. Recreational marijuana
Status: Illegal but with very low, decreasing fines
While it is illegal to consume, produce, possess or sell cannabis flowers or cannabis products that contain more than 1.0% THC in Switzerland, it is not the plant itself that is illegal; it is the cannabinoid THC. Per The Local CH, in 2016, four cities in Switzerland stated they were looking into establishing pilot cannabis clubs, and so they did. The usage of cannabis for these purposes falls into the group of recreational marijuana.
A Cannabis Social Club also called a Teapad, is a model of legal regulation of the cannabis market, organized as non-profit organizations where cannabis is cultivated and enjoyed collectively, often for the purpose of relaxing or for social communion.
Given the existence of these clubs, no wonder people are confused when it comes down to whether marijuana is legalized or not.
Take caution, though, to the fines and sanctions of Switzerland. If you are a repeat offender or are caught with a big amount of illegal cannabis, you can face a one to a three-year custodial sentence.
2. CBD cannabis flowers
Status: Legal as long as they contain less than 1.0% of THC
Luckily, THC is only one of the many cannabinoids that are found in the cannabis plant. Another cannabinoid, which is very popular at the moment, is CBD, and CBD containing flowers are completely legal as long as they have less than 1.0% of THC.
CBD doesn’t produce a high, and it has many use cases as well as upsides, while not having any downsides, which is why it is so popular. Because CBD flowers got so popular in Switzerland and are used as a tobacco substitute, the Swiss government introduced a tobacco tax on CBD flowers.
The Federal Administrative Court set the tax rate for CBD cannabis flowers at CHF 38 per kilogram and 25 percent of the retail price, with a minimum of CHF 80 per kilogram, which is the same as that of fine-cut tobacco.
3. Medical marijuana
Status: Legal, but requires an exceptional license
Since July 2011, every Swiss doctor can prescribe medical cannabis flowers, that is, cannabis with a THC content of more than 1.0%, to patients who have an exceptional license granted to them by the Federal Office of Public Health.
Additionally, doctors can prescribe magistral formulas that are based on THC containing marijuana, and, since the FDA approved the CBD mono-preparation Epidiolex® on the 28th of June 2018, doctors can also use CBD in magistral formulas.
Above all, What is interesting is that tax revenues from legal cannabis as a tobacco alternative hit 15.1 million francs (€13.5 million) last year, up from just 400,000 three years earlier, according to the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) and The Local.
Surveys in Switzerland have shown that most smokers of the products are young and that the benefits of their active component cannabidiol (CBD), helps youngsters with sleep problems and stress while promoting well-being.
Information was gathered from the Federal Act on Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances, (Narcotics Act, NarcA) unless stated otherwise.