Zurich, Switzerland has approved plans to legalize the consumption and sale of cannabis in a trial aimed at determining the social and economic benefits of regulating the drug. The move comes as other parts of Europe are rethinking their marijuana regulation in response to wider drug policy shifts across the globe.
The Zurich Trial
Starting this summer, a test group of 2,100 Zurich residents will be allowed to buy regulated doses of the drug for personal use from pharmacies, special dispensaries, and social clubs across the city. Participants will be expected to answer a questionnaire every six months on their consumption habits and health effects as part of the study, conducted in collaboration with the University of Zurich.
The trial aims to determine the conditions under which weed legalization in Switzerland can be compatible with promoting individual and public health and safety. Evidence from the trial is to be published on a rolling basis from next year. Zurich’s municipal health department stated that the real-world evidence would serve policymaking for new national regulations on cannabis.
Marijuana Regulation in Europe
Germany, the largest economy in Europe, is expected to introduce a bill to legalize the consumption and sale of cannabis within the coming weeks. If the bill passes, it would make Germany the first country in the EU to permit its nationwide commercial sale. Neighboring Luxembourg and the Czech Republic have also already proposed plans to legalize cannabis for adult use.
In Austria, Italy, and Spain, possessing small amounts of the drug for personal consumption is no longer a criminal offense. Malta, the EU’s smallest member state, became the first country in the bloc to legalize personal possession of the drug and permit private “cannabis clubs,” where members can grow and share the drug.
Participation in the Zurich Trial
Zurich residents interested in participating in the trial are invited to register, provided they are active cannabis users of legal age, have no underlying medical conditions, and are not currently employed as professional drivers. Around one-third of adults in Switzerland have tried cannabis, according to public health surveys. In Zurich, an estimated 13,000 residents are regular users.
Further studies with public and university sponsors are also planned in the cities of Basel, Bern, Lausanne, Geneva, Biel, Thun, Olten, and Winterthur over the coming months.