Updated on April 24, 2018. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
In recent years, Swiss laws have opened up many opportunities for patients to get access to both THC and CBD medicine. But, they still have certain restrictions in place you should keep in mind. Understanding your country’s marijuana laws lets you use medicine without worrying about getting in trouble.
In 2011, Switzerland legalized recreational cannabis containing up to 1% THC. They also permitted doctors to request approval for treatment with high-THC medications. These updates opened up many options for citizens in need of marijuana-based remedies. But, Switzerland still has a way to go.
As long as an adult-use item has under 1% THC, it can come in many forms. Patients looking for CBD medicine can find bud, concentrates and more with high concentrations of the compound. But, you must get a prescription to use anything with over 1% THC, and that medicine comes in two varieties.
While some countries have a state-run medical marijuana registry for patients to enter, others only ask for a prescription. Switzerland lies somewhere in between. Patients don’t have to obtain a medicinal cannabis program card, but they must go through more steps than just getting a prescription.
If someone has symptoms research shows could benefit from THC, they can get permission from the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) for treatment. Their doctor will submit proof of diagnosis, potential benefits of THC and patient consent. Once the FOPH authorizes the medicine, the patient can fill their prescription at a pharmacy.
Swiss law criminalizes possessing more than 10 grams of marijuana with over 1% THC. In 2013, they decriminalized cases of possession involving an adult over 18 having under 10 grams. If someone over 18 gets caught, they simply pay a 100-franc fine and don’t have to worry about the incident going on their record.
Youth under 18 could still face charges, but the Swiss government and cantons try to take a preventative approach. Instead, any dealers involved in an underage case will face stricter punishment. Meanwhile, young offenders can access expert help instead of getting in trouble.
While Switzerland’s medical THC policies let patients safely access otherwise illegal medicine, they have their limits. Doctors and patients can choose from either 2.5% THC dronabinol or a cannabis tincture with 5% THC. So, anyone who needs stronger concentrations or a different kind of medicine is out of luck. Not every ailment is responsive to CBD or lower amounts of THC.
Patients who opt for CBD treatments could also slip through some of the cracks. Recreational products can have expensive costs. Plus, only licensed stores can carry them, and these places have varied selections.
Since doctors go through an application process to get medical marijuana for their patients, their approval from the FOPH protects them from legal prosecution. When Swiss drug laws changed in 2011, the Federal Act on Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances gained amendments that guide the medical use of cannabis. These regulations let physicians rest assured that as long as they follow the law, they can’t get in trouble.
Patients benefit from similar safeguards. In addition to their doctor’s records, they have a prescription that serves as further proof of their eligibility. If they purchase regulated CBD products, they don’t have to worry about THC concentration.
Across the world, countries constantly change their rules and attitudes regarding marijuana. Switzerland is off to a great start on providing patient access, but they could add more laws in the future. Follow our international updates to learn about any new legislation that comes up.