- Switzerland has approved plans to legalize the sale and consumption of cannabis in Zurich in a trial designed to assess social and economic benefits.
- From this summer, a test group of 2,100 Zurich residents will be permitted to buy regulated doses of the drug for personal use.
- The move comes as other parts of Europe are rethinking their cannabis regulation, with Germany expected to introduce a bill to legalize the drug within the coming weeks.
The Swiss government has approved plans to legalize the sale and consumption of cannabis in Zurich in a trial designed to assess the social and economic benefits of regulating the drug.
From this summer, a test group of 2,100 Zurich residents will be permitted to buy regulated doses of the drug for personal use from pharmacies, special dispensaries and social clubs across the city.
Participants will be expected to answer a questionnaire every six months on their consumption habits and health effects as part of the study, which is conducted in collaboration with the University of Zurich.
The trial ultimately aims to determine the conditions under which weed legalization in Switzerland can be compatible with "promoting individual and public health and safety," the study leaders said. Evidence from the trial is to be published on a rolling basis from next year.
"The idea is to get robust real world evidence that serves policymaking for new [national] regulation on cannabis," Barbara Burri, project manager at Zurich's municipal health department said.
The move comes as other parts of Europe are rethinking their marijuana regulation in response to wider drug policy shifts across the globe.
Germany, Europe's largest economy, is expected to introduce a bill to greenlight the consumption and sale of cannabis within the coming weeks — a move that would make it the first country in the EU to permit its nationwide commercial sale.
Neighboring Luxembourg and the Czech Republic have also already proposed plans to legalize cannabis for adult-use, while in Austria, Italy and Spain, it is no longer a criminal offence to possess small amounts of the drug for personal consumption.
Malta, the EU's smallest member state, in 2021 became the first country in the bloc to legalize personal possession of the drug and permit private "cannabis clubs," where members can grow and share the drug.
Elsewhere, Canada, Uruguay and, recently, Thailand, have all moved to legalize the drug in the past decade.
Zurich residents interested in participating in the trial are invited to register, provided they are active cannabis users of legal age, have no underlying medical conditions and are not currently employed as a professional driver.
Around one third of adults in Switzerland have tried cannabis, according to public health surveys. In Zurich — the country's most populous city with over 420,000 residents — an estimated 13,000 residents are regular users.
Further studies with public and university sponsors are also planned in the cities of Basel, Bern, Lausanne, Geneva, Biel, Thun, Olten and Winterthur over the coming months.