Switzerland considers making cannabis legal and approves pilot programs

Cannabis could soon be legal in Switzerland. The Swiss Council of States, Switzerland’s smaller chamber of parliament, unanimously approved a bill allowing studies and pilot programs in the landlocked Alpine nation. The Council called for an experimental article in the Swiss Federation’s Narcotics Act that would allow for scientific research projects including trials of a “coffee shop” system of cannabis distribution similar to that of Amsterdam. Five Swiss cities have already called for such coffeeshop pilot programs.

The Ministry of Health rejected requests until now, maintaining there’s no legal basis for carving such exceptions out of the Narcotics Act. After rejecting the idea in November 2017, the Ministry pointed out that the Narcotics Act must be amended by an “experiment paragraph.” This would provide for the City of Bern to review future applications.

“There was a need for scientifically based decision-making principles for the future regulation of cannabis,” according to MP Roberto Zanetti, representing the Social Democrats. The City of Bern had previously requested a cannabis pilot project several times. Under the proposed trial, 1,000 people who already use cannabis would be allowed to purchase it legally.The pilot project, which would allow cannabis purchases in pharmacies, would be scientifically evaluated and serve as a basis for future cannabis policies.

The bill now goes to the larger chamber of parliament, the National Council, where its fate rests. The Council of States has 46 members representing the Swiss cantons (federal states). It is the lesser chamber of parliament, analogous to the U.S. House of Representatives. The National Council has 200 members. Together, the two chambers make up the Swiss Federal Assembly, which meets in Bern.

Cannabis is already widely tolerated in Switzerland.

Possession of 10 grams or less of cannabis has been decriminalized. Between 200,000 and 300,000 Swiss use cannabis on a regular basis, according to government estimates. Possession of up to 10 grams isn’t punished in most cantons. Public consumption will get you a minor fine, 100 Swiss francs.

Numerous coffee shops are already open, legally selling CBD-dominant cannabis flowers with THC content of less than 1 percent. With the first CBD bars opening, cannabis has become hot news in Switzerland and is becoming part of the streetscape and culture.

CBD use is so widespread, the police in Zurich have started using a rapid test device to test for CBD to distinguish between low-THC legal cannabis and the high-THC illegal flower.

Switzerland’s 1 percent limit on THC means it has a higher threshold than the rest of Europe, Canada, and the United States. Anything up to 1 percent THC is defined as legal fiber hemp under Swiss Federation law. Because Switzerland isn’t a member of the European Union, it is free to set its own marijuana policies.

Switzerland almost legalized cannabis 20 years ago.

Back in the late 1990s, cannabis activists in Switzerland discovered a loophole in the Narcotics Act. The legal gap made it possible to grow and sell marijuana, both for personal use and on a larger scale. That’s because the law didn’t yet distinguish between cannabis and hemp on the basis of THC content. As long as the products were grown and sold for the stated use of “aromatherapy,” that made them legal.

A network of “Hanflädelis” (Hemp shops) rapidly sprang up where flowers and hash could be bought at reasonable prices. The shops first appeared in Zurich, and later throughout the country.

The Council of States even approved a legalization law in 2001. The National Council was expected to follow. But Switzerland, despite its famed neutrality (and, at the time, non-membership), came under heavy pressure from the United Nations. The U.N. was still unfortunately locked in is quixotic Drug War mindset. It demanded that Switzerland stick to its commitment to the 1961 Single Convention. That international agreement, seen through by the infamous American drug warrior Harry J. Anslinger, basically forced every country on earth to promise to keep cannabis illegal forever.

It didn’t help that neighbors France and Germany had started to loudly complain about the increasing amounts of cannabis coming across their borders. The weed was coming from, you guessed it, Switzerland.

In September 2002, Switzerland joined the United Nations. In short order, the National Council buckled to international pressure. They rejected the law that had been approved by the lower chamber of parliament the year before. Faced with the stark choice of legal cannabis or membership in the U.N., Swiss politicians chose the latter. So now it’s up to the National Council again.

A national referendum on cannabis legalization failed at the polls in 2008. In the decade since, the Swiss cities of Bern, Geneva, Basel, and Zurich have all repeatedly asked for regulated marijuana sales, starting with pilot projects. Many smaller towns also want to take part in such trials.

So in a replay of what happened in 2002 the final decision on cannabis legalization once again is up to the National Council. This time, the Grand Chamber of parliament is expected to at least partially go along with the Council of States. The vote, however, is expected to be a close one.

Source : Herb

Harvard: Marijuana Doesn’t Cause Schizophrenia

Good news for people who’ve worried that smoking too much marijuana (cannabis) — especially as a teenager — might lead to some dramatic problems in the future, even schizophrenia.

New research from Harvard Medical School, in a comparison between families with a history of schizophrenia and those without, finds little support for marijuana use as a cause of schizophrenia.

“The results of the current study suggest that having an increased familial morbid risk for schizophrenia may be the underlying basis for schizophrenia in cannabis users and not cannabis use by itself,” note the researchers.

The new study is the first family study that, according to the researchers, “examines both non-psychotic cannabis users and non-cannabis user controls as two additional independent samples, enabling the examination of whether the risk for schizophrenia is increased in family members of cannabis users who develop schizophrenia compared with cannabis users who do not and also whether that morbid risk is similar or different from that in family members of schizophrenia patients who never used cannabis.”

Marijuana use is becoming increasingly commonplace as two U.S. states have already legalized its use next to alcohol for adults. Some previous studies have suggested that there may be a correlational link between teenage marijuana use and the increased likelihood of being diagnosed with schizophrenia in the future.

So researchers from Harvard Medical School and the VA Boston Healthcare system got together to determine whether family risk for schizophrenia is a crucial factor underlying the association between the development of schizophrenia in teens who smoke marijuana.

The researchers recruited 282 subjects from the New York and Boston metropolitan areas who were divided into four groups: controls with no lifetime history of psychotic illness, cannabis, or any other drug use; controls with no lifetime history of psychotic illness, and a history of heavy cannabis use during adolescence, but no other drug use; patients with no lifetime history of cannabis use or any other drug and less than 10 years of being ill; patients with a history of heavy cannabis use and no other drug use during adolescence and prior to the onset of psychosis.

Information about all first-, second-, and third-degree relatives was obtained, as well as information about any other relative who had a known psychiatric illness. This resulted in information on 1,168 first-degree relatives and a total of 4,291 relatives. The study gathered together information regarding cannabis use, and family history regarding schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression and drug abuse.

The researchers concluded that the results of the current study, “both when analyzed using morbid risk and family frequency calculations, suggest that having an increased familial risk for schizophrenia is the underlying basis for schizophrenia in these samples — not the cannabis use.

“While cannabis may have an effect on the age of onset of schizophrenia it is unlikely to be the cause of illness,” said the researchers, who were led by Ashley C. Proal from Harvard Medical School.

In general, we found a tendency for depression and bipolar disorder to be increased in the relatives of cannabis users in both the patient and control samples. This might suggest that cannabis users are more prone to affective disorders than their non-using samples or vice versa.

Future research is needed to understand this relationship.

Drug abuse also appears to have an important genetic component.

“Drug abuse is present more frequently in family members of all 3 samples compared to those of non-cannabis abusing controls. This is in line with past research confirming a genetic predisposition for drug use.”

The research was published earlier this month in Schizophrenia Research.

Source: Schizophrenia Research