Swiss authorities have approved more cannabis pilot projects to start next fall where citizens of some jurisdictions will be able to purchase pot through select pharmacies.
One of the projects will be led by researchers at the universities of Bern and Lucerne and will examine the health and social impacts of cannabis sales under a highly regulated non-profit sales structure in the cities of Bern, Lucerne and Biel.
The 18-month-long Safer Cannabis Research in Pharmacies randomized controlled Trial or SCRIPT received approval from the Federal Office of Public Health (BAG) last week. Around 1,000 people aged 18 and up will be able to take part, with only half able to buy cannabis at authorized pharmacies during the first six months.
“The study does not aim to legalize cannabis but address issues from prohibition and test harm reduction,” head researcher Reto Auer said in a statement.
“Dispensing at the pharmacy allows for better information and harm reduction. Users often don’t know what’s in illegal cannabis, like synthetic cannabinoids, pesticides or fungi,” Auer said.
The supply will be controlled and demand contained, with no advertising or appealing packaging. The study also received approval from the Cantonal Ethics Committee of Bern as well as the Ethics Committee of Northwest and Central Switzerland.
Problematic cannabis use can lead to psychosis and sale by health professionals unlike the illegal market enables early detection and advice, said Philippe Pfeifer, head of addiction psychiatry at Bern University Psychiatric Services.
Findings should inform cannabis policy discussion and these studies represent a unique opportunity to obtain scientific knowledge about different regulatory approaches, said Auer.
“In this way, we gain well-founded and fact-based knowledge for future cannabis policy,” said municipal councillor Franziska Teuscher on the approval of the trials.
Read more: Khiron starts selling cannabis in Switzerland, expands portfolio in Germany and UK
Read more: Switzerland allows doctors to directly prescribe medical cannabis
A similar program was also approved by BAG last week but it centers around a single authorized and secure dispensary, called the “Cannabinotheque,” which will provide regulated access to cannabis. The dispensary will operate on a membership model in the municipality of Vernier, a key partner of ChanGE, the association conducting and overseeing the trial.
The trial seeks to determine to what extent such a program offering regulated cannabis access may enhance knowledge about the substance and address concerns and problems related to it. The goal is to reduce the health and social harms typically associated with drug use.
Other similar studies are underway in other cities such as the “Züri Can – Cannabis with responsibility” study in Zurich that started last March. Under the pilot study, participants can legally purchase cannabis for personal use for three years under regulated conditions and fill out questionnaires at times.