Switzerland's Basel-Stadt region to test run legalising cannabis

Cannabis can currently only be purchased legally in Switzerland for medical use. PHOTO: REUTERS

GENEVA (AFP) - The Swiss Basel-Stadt region said on Thursday (Aug 18) it would launch a pilot trial next month for the legal sale of cannabis, marking a first step in Switzerland towards possible legalisation.

The northern canton said in a statement that it would launch its WEED CARE study on Sept 15, and that people could now sign up to be among the 370 participants.

"The scientific knowledge gained from this provides a basis for discussion for a future responsible cannabis policy," Basel-Stadt said in a statement.

Cannabis can currently only be purchased legally in the wealthy Alpine nation for medical use, or for non-medical use when it contains below one per cent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) - the component that gets recreational users high.

Purchasing hashish meanwhile is illegal regardless of the THC level.

Despite the bans, "cannabis use is widespread, user safety is uncertain and the black market is thriving", Basel-Stadt said.

The canton's trial marks the first of several pilot trials authorised by Switzerland's Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) for the regulated sale of cannabis for non-medical purposes.

The aim of the 2.5-year study will be to examine "the effects of regulated cannabis sales on consumption behaviour and the health of cannabis users compared to the status quo in which cannabis is illegally available", Basel-Stadt said.

Several other Swiss cantons and cities are planning similar studies, in a bid to determine various effects of cannabis regulation.

According to the FOPH, studies have shown that a majority of Swiss is open to the idea of fundamentally overhauling the country's cannabis policy.

Participants in the Basel-Stadt study will need to be over the age of 18, be a resident of the canton and must already have consumed cannabis.

Six different cannabis products are to be involved, four in the form of dried cannabis flowers and two hashish products, each with different levels of THC and of cannabidiol (CBD).

The products will be sold in pharmacies, and will be priced similarly to the going rate on the street, at between eight and 12 Swiss francs (S$11.59-S$17.39) per gramme, Basel-Stadt said.

"During the entire study, the participants will be regularly asked about their cannabis consumption behaviour and their physical and mental health, among other things," it said.

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