Revision: Cannabis Regulation – New Authorization Mechanism for Dealing With Medical Cannabis

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On 1 August 2022, not only the annual national holiday could be celebrated extensively in Switzerland. Particularly noteworthy is also the entry into force of the new requirements for the regulation of medical cannabis.

Cannabis was qualified as a prohibited narcotic in Switzerland until the end of summer 2022 – without further specification in relation to a medical application. Accordingly, the cultivation, importation, production, and marketing of cannabis required an exemption permit from the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH).

Due to the increasing demand for treatment with cannabis medicinal products and the administrative burden associated with the (old) exemption licensing mechanism, the Federal Council submitted a bill to parliament aimed at facilitating the medical use of cannabis. The bill was approved by Parliament on 19 March 2021 and has now entered into force on 1 August 2022.

The entry into force of the new provisions results, in particular, in the following (legal-practical) changes:

  • The ban on the use of cannabis (i.e., THC content of 1% or higher) for medical purposes was lifted.
  • For cannabis (i.e., THC content of 1% or higher) for non-medical purposes, there is no change. The previous legal situation applies.
  • The cultivation, processing, production, and trade of medical cannabis will now be subject to Swissmedic’s licensing and control system (the same as for narcotics used for medical purposes, such as methadone and morphine).
  • Treatment with cannabis medicinal products no longer requires an exceptional authorization from the FOPH. The responsibility for treatment lies exclusively with the physicians (i.e., within the framework of therapeutic freedom).
  • The commercial export of cannabis for medical purposes is now permitted. For the export, a license from Swissmedic is required.
  • In order to monitor the development of the prescription of cannabis medicinal products and to obtain more evidence on their effects, an accompanying data collection will be carried out. Prescribing physicians are obliged to provide the FOPH with information on treatment during the first few years after the amendment to the law comes into force (obligatory reporting, without enforcement consequences).

Our team will be happy to advise you on any questions you may have in this context and will accompany you through all the steps and legal acts with regard to obtaining the necessary licenses.

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