Switzerland

Medical use

Grow, selling and importing cannabis for medical use is allowed.

However, there is a distinction between cannabis containing at least 1% THC and other cannabis.

Cannabis containing at least 1% THC (irrespective of its CBD content) is qualified – in addition to its possible qualification as medicinal product and the application of the medicinal products regulation – as a narcotic and can only be grown, imported and sold for medical use if an authorisation by the Federal Office for Public Health is granted. The application procedure is administratively complex.

Cannabis containing less than 1% THC (irrespective of its CBD content) intended to be used as a medicinal product is subject to the (general) regulation on medicinal products which provides for manufacturing authorisation, wholesale authorisation and marketing authorisation.

Patients can have access to currently authorised cannabis-based drugs only on medical prescription.

For cannabis containing at least 1% THC (irrespective of its CBD content), a patient can – via their physician – apply for an authorisation for restricted medical use issued by the Federal Office of Public Health. The application procedure is administratively complex and a lot of information and documentation needs to be included in the submission. Cannabis containing less than 1% THC (irrespective of its CBD content) intended for medical use is regulated by the (general) regulation on medicinal products. Under certain circumstances, such products can be accessed by a patient if they are manufactured in a pharmacy based on a physician’s prescription. Violation of the regulation on narcotics (e.g. unauthorised cultivation of cannabis containing more than 1% THC) can be punished with up to 20 years of custodial sentence (plus a monetary fine).

Violation of the regulation on medicinal products (e.g. marketing of a medicinal product without a marketing authorisation) can be punished with up to 10 years of custodial sentence (plus a monetary fine). Legal entities can be punished with a fine of up to CHF 5m.

Recreational use

Cannabis containing at least 1% THC (irrespective of its CBD content) is qualified as a narcotic. Production of, importation of, and selling of such cannabis for recreational use is not allowed.

Cannabis containing less than 1% THC (irrespective of its CBD content) is not qualified as a narcotic and can generally be produced, imported and sold for recreational use. Note that product specific regulation (such as regulation on tobacco substitutes) might demand certain authorisations and/or notifications.

Industrial use

Industrial cannabis, understood as cannabis containing less than 1% THC (irrespective of its CBD content) is legally not qualified as a narcotic but is subject to the regulation under which the product is brought on the market (medicinal products, foodstuffs, cosmetics, chemicals, tobacco substitute, etc.).

The uses permitted are determined by these regulations. For instance, some foodstuffs containing CBD are qualified as novel foods and require marketing authorisation.

In Switzerland there is no general regulation on CBD content. Rather the content is subject to the regulation under which the product is brought on the market (medicinal products, foodstuffs, cosmetics, chemicals, tobacco substitute, etc.). For instance, CBD-containing liquids (for e-cigarettes) may only release substances in quantities that do not pose a health risk.

Patentability

Cannabis based products are patentable. It is, though, not possible to patent plant varieties or essentially biological processes for the production of plants.

Latest developments

Switzerland is planning to amend the legislation on cannabis for medical use in order to facilitate access to cannabis based medicinal products for patients. Public consultation to the draft amendment is currently (September 2019) under way.

Furthermore, it is planned to allow the conduct of temporary and strictly regulated scientific studies on cannabis use for human consumption. The amendment is currently being discussed in Parliament.

Authors

Picture of Marion Wyler
Marion Wyler