Swiss cannabis market worth up to half a billion francs annually

The study was carried out in canton Vaud, and the results extrapolated for the rest of the country. Keystone / Etienne Laurent

Cannabis remains by far the most widespread drug enjoyed in Switzerland, even if the value of the market is much lower than that for cocaine, researchers have found.

This content was published on January 23, 2020

A study publishedExternal link Thursday by several groups including Addiction Switzerland estimates the national cannabis market to be worth up to CHF500 million ($516 million).

But in canton Vaud, where the study was carried out, the figures show that the total market value was around half that of for cocaine – a finding that Frank Zobel, co-director of Addiction Switzerland, said was a surprise.

“We thought that cannabis represented the biggest market in all senses of the word,” he told the Keystone news agency. “However, the turnover is lower than for cocaine, even if it does remain significantly higher than for other drugs.”

This said, the total volume of cannabis sold in Switzerland tops that of all other drugs: between 40 and 60 tonnes are estimated to be smoked each year across the country. In canton Vaud alone, where the population is 800,000, the equivalent of around 50,000 joints-worth of cannabis is consumed every day.

New kicks

As for the products on offer, the researchers point to a diverse and shifting landscape where “you can find everything”, as Zobel puts it.

Imported hashish is making a comeback after decades of locally-grown marijuana leaves proved popular. The hash on offer in Switzerland comes almost exclusively from Morocco, the report notes, and contains generally high levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the main psychoactive constituent of cannabis that gives the high sensation).

Other new products on the Swiss market include a cocktail of illegal cannabis (with high levels of THC) mixed with legal cannabidiol (CBD), a development that Zobel said has been driven by increasingly low prices in the legal market. 

CBD can be extracted from hemp or from marijuana, and is sold in the form of gels, oils, extracts, gummies and more but does not trigger the same kind of “high” as THC.

As for consumers themselves, researchers note that heavy users are the motors of the market: half of all consumption was carried out by “regular” smokers (20 or more days per month), who represent 9% of all users.

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