Legal status of marijuana in switzerland

Legal status of marijuana in switzerland
Steven Voser

Reform is moving again in Switzerland after years of uncertainty. Low THC cannabis is now sold in shops and an effort is underway to fully legalize the drug.

Cannabis reform is definitely afoot in Switzerland. The land of accurate watches, secret bank accounts and the Alps, is once again, considering legalization.

That said, Switzerland is also a country that was once at the forefront of cannabis reform. Now it is battling from the middle of the pack.


The medical status of cannabis is very uncertain. There is no explicit provision for medical use within current law. In practice, however, medical use is unlikely to result in prosecution. Patients interested in cannabis that contains only CBD and CBD products, have no problem at all as Switzerland CBD is completely legal as long as it doesn't contain more than 1% THC. This is not covered by health insurance companies though.


Up until the beginning of the new century, cannabis was easily available and cheap. A loophole in the law allowed cannabis to be grown and cultivated for personal use. Both indoor and outdoor grown marijuana were available for sale. Anyone over 18 could grow cannabis. When Switzerland joined the UN, however, the country had to comply with UN mandate. Cannabis was actually recriminalized in 2002.

Things changed again in 2011. Low THC cannabis (of less than 1%) became legal again. And since that time, things are starting to get super interesting. In late 2016, entrepreneurs rushed to set up shops to sell this drug. There are now 140 such entities. Most of these are less than 6 months old. The plan is to tax and regulate low canna THC as an economic justification for further reform.

Recreational reformers have high hopes that the Swiss will once again set the pace for Europe. That said, the technical details are still tricky. The big debate on the table right now is challenging the specifics of the current law.

In 2016, the cities of Zurich, Basel, Bern and Geneva stated that they planned to establish pilot cannabis clubs. The idea was to create a pilot study to understand their utility. 2,000 people will be allowed to join for four years.

Even more intriguing? Hemp is perfectly legal here (as long as it has less than 1% THC). Stores who sell hemp seeds can also sell high THC seeds. It is nothing but confusing even to the Swiss. To outsiders it makes even less sense.

The good news is that Switzerland has a relatively liberal drug policy even now.

According to a court case in 2013, possession of up to 8 grams of cannabis is decriminalized and might not even get you a fine.

If you do get a fine, then these fines, unless carrying around more than 4 kilos, are relatively minor. The penalties also depend on where you are. They vary by canton. Expect to pay a fine of about 100 Swiss Francs if you have more than 10 grams on you. For repeated infractions there is also an increasing fine. Selling soft drugs here is also penalized less harshly than hard drugs – about a day’s pay for the month if under 100 grams.

Possession of more than 4kg will land you in jail for up to three years.

An attempt to decriminalize possession and consumption of cannabis narrowly failed in Parliament in 2004. Since then, the issue has continued to percolate. Results from a national referendum in November 2008 showed that 36.7% of the country supported legalizing cannabis.

The new low THC marijuana industry is also seen as a precursor of better things to come.


Join the Social Democratic Party (PSS). The PSS has a very liberal, progressive approach to drug policy. They are also spearheading the campaign for legalized retail sale in major cities, led by former Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss.

You can also get in touch with Legalize It – a group advocating for a fully taxed, legal industry.

Steven Voser
Steven Voser

Steven is a long-time veteran of cannabis journalism, having delved into every aspect of the subject. His particular interests lie in cannabis culture, the emerging science of cannabis, and how it is shaping the legal landscape across the globe.