No cannabis for scientific studies, says parliament

Legal cannabis has boomed in Switzerland, but the 'real' stuff remains proscribed. Keystone

The Swiss parliament has rejected a motion to allow the use of cannabis in scientific studies investigating the drug’s effects. Opponents saw the motion as a back-door path towards liberalization.

This content was published on June 11, 2018 - 21:04

After a narrow victory at the committee stage, the motion was rejected on Monday in the House of Representatives by another slim margin: 96 votes to 93, with two abstentions.

The conservative-right Swiss People’s Party and centrist Christian Democrats voted en masse against the idea, which they saw as an implicit route towards liberalising cannabis consumption.

Supporters of the project, which aimed to make cannabis available for academic studies about the effects of prescribed versions of the drug, had claimed that it would allow for a better understanding of possible health and social problems.

The vote comes after a November 2017 federal decision to block a University of Bern study – requested by the city’s authorities – into possible effects of the regulated sale of cannabis in pharmacies.

+ An in-depth look into Switzerland’s relationship with cannabisExternal link

At the time, the Federal Office of Public Health (despite not rejecting the project in principle) said the request could not be granted as “current drugs legislation does not allow the use of cannabis for non-medical reasons […] For such a study to be permitted, the law would have to be supplemented by a special legal provision for scientific pilot projects,” it wrote.

Monday’s decision thus eliminated the possibility, for now, of such a legal provision being enacted.

Growing, consuming and dealing cannabis are all forbidden in Switzerland. In 2008, almost two-thirds of Swiss voters rejected a people’s initiative calling for the decriminalisation of consumption.

Meanwhile, legal cannabis has become a flourishing business in Switzerland since it a 2011 decision to let adults buy and use cannabis with up to 1% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the active ingredient that gets smokers high.

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