Updated on January 22, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Switzerland has long been considered a progressive country regarding their attitudes toward drug consumption. And though they have decriminalized the recreational use of marijuana, with individuals only being subject to a fine, they have yet to establish an official, legal medical marijuana program. Those who wish to obtain medical marijuana must get a special exemption from Switzerland’s Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH).
In 2011, Switzerland changed its Federal Law on Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances to allow CBD with less than 1% THC to be sold in the country. So, although health insurance does not assist in the purchase of these products, patients have access to CBD, which can treat many debilitating conditions. They have also approved the prescription of Sativex and dronabinol, two cannabis-based medications.
In 2008, the Swiss Parliament changed their narcotics law to allow for medical exemptions. It’s unclear what steps patients need to take to receive this exemption, but thus far, hundreds of patients have been approved. There are many different medical conditions the FOPH has approved for cannabis usage. Some of these include:
Although Switzerland does not have a government-established medical marijuana program, they do allow exemptions for qualified patients. To receive medical marijuana, patients must visit their physician, who will determine if this form of medication is their best treatment option. The doctor must then apply to the FOPH for special exemption for their patient. The office of public health has approved hundreds of patients to date, so the system is not as restrictive as other countries.
Physicians can also legally prescribe Sativex and dronabinol. These are the only approved cannabis-based medications so far.
If patients wish to receive CBD products, it’s as easy as visiting a tobacco retailer or even a grocery store. As long as these items have less than one percent THC, they are not illegal, according to the Federal Law on Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances.
Dronabinol and Sativex require a prescription from a physician. However, if a patient wished to receive cannabis medications, their physician must apply to the FOPH for a special exemption. If they want to continue taking these forms of medications, the doctor must then ask for an extension of their license to use.
If law enforcement officials catch someone with medical marijuana, and they are known to be using it medicinally, authorities will usually give leniency and let these individuals go with a warning. However, this is not a sure thing.
Marijuana containing THC is still technically illegal in Switzerland. Fortunately, since it is decriminalized, as long as a user is only carrying 10 grams or less, it will not go on their criminal record. Instead, they will be issued a fine for 100 Swiss francs, and their cannabis products will be confiscated.
This rule does not apply to CBD products, though. Since they have been completely legalized, patients and recreational users alike can enjoy their use. However, CBD cigarettes still smell like weed, so it’s recommended that people don’t smoke them publicly to avoid unnecessary confusion.
Attitudes toward medical marijuana are changing around the world. Although Switzerland does not currently have any medical marijuana legislation before their Parliament, they could soon follow the example of many of their European neighbors.
Until then, check back with MarijuanaDoctors.com. Any time a nation updates its international cannabis laws, we inform our readers. You can also find more information about exciting cannabis topics in our resource guide and on our blog.