Medical cannabis in Switzerland: A comprehensive overview

In recent years, the view of cannabis has changed dramatically around the world, both for private consumption and in the medical field. Switzerland is no exception, as the use of medical cannabis is enjoying increasing acceptance and recognition in this country, including at a legal level.

This article will give you a comprehensive understanding of medical cannabis, the current legal framework in Switzerland and the possibilities of its use.

What is medical cannabis?

Cannabis is used medicinally as a drug to relieve symptoms of various diseases and conditions.

The cannabis plant and its derivatives are used, especially active ingredients such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). They are said to have pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety properties.

Initial research and experience have shown that the use of cannabis as medicine can be helpful in a variety of diagnoses, especially chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and certain mental disorders.

However, in the eyes of many, the usefulness and cost-effectiveness of these drugs has not yet been sufficiently proven. Further high-quality clinical studies are needed to improve the current scientific data.


Legal status of medical cannabis in Switzerland

Swiss law clearly distinguishes between cannabis for medical purposes and cannabis for recreational use. There are currently a number of pilot projects underway in Switzerland for recreational use, such as Züri Can or WeedCare in the canton of Basel-Stadt.

The Swiss Parliament has officially approved the use of medical cannabis in the Narcotics Act (BetmG) as of August 1, 2022. This means that the exemption granted by the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) is no longer valid.

Doctors in Switzerland can therefore prescribe cannabis medicines much more easily. The responsibility for treatment with cannabis medicines therefore lies exclusively with the medical profession.

However, there is an obligation to report treatment electronically via the online reporting system “MeCanna”. This survey is used to evaluate individual treatment processes.


Forms of use of medical cannabis

Medical cannabis comes in a variety of forms, including oils, capsules, tinctures, sprays and flowers.

The choice of application form depends on the type of disease, the dosage and the preference of the individual patient.

Therapy involving medical cannabis products should always be supervised by a qualified medical professional to ensure that it is safe and effective.


Are the costs for medical cannabis covered by health insurance?

Cannabis medicines are currently only reimbursed by health insurance in exceptional cases. The available evidence on effectiveness and cost-effectiveness is currently insufficient for general reimbursement.

In order for the health insurance company to cover the costs, an exemption from the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) is usually required. This is only granted in specific cases when other treatment methods have not produced the desired result or are not tolerated.

Reimbursement through basic insurance is only possible within the framework of individual reimbursement (Art. 71a ff. of the Ordinance on Health Insurance of 27 June 1995 (KVV).


Challenges and future prospects

Despite initial findings and experiences regarding the benefits of cannabis for medical use, patients and doctors in Switzerland still face some challenges.

Particularly with regard to legal restrictions, the availability of high-quality products – especially cannabis produced locally in Switzerland in the highest organic quality – and the broad acceptance in society.

However, the future looks promising. The Swiss government is currently conducting pilot projects to research the effects of regulated cannabis distribution. In the Züri Can pilot project, we at SwissExtract are the preferred cannabis supplier.

In the long term, these projects could pave the way for a more liberal attitude towards cannabis, both in medical use and for private consumption.