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Switzerland allows doctors to prescribe medical cannabis



Recreational use of cannabis still remains outlawed in the country

Switzerland’s Council of States has voted to allow doctors to prescribe medical cannabis directly to patients.

The Council of States voted unanimously to allow cannabis-based medicines to be directly prescribed for patients by physicians.

In December, the Swiss National Council approved a Federal Council proposal to amend the narcotics law and make it easier for patients to access medical cannabis.

On Monday 8 March, Switzerland’s upper chamber of government also approved the proposal with 42 votes yes to 0 no and 0 abstentions.

The amendment to the law will mean that patients and treating physicians will benefit from a reduction in bureaucratic hurdles in accessing medical cannabis, with the responsibility for treatment with medical cannabis now lying entirely with physicians.

With this historic change in the Narcotics Act, Switzerland is moving closer to countries that guarantee access to cannabis medicines, such as Canada, Germany and Italy. 

While non-medical use remains prohibited, cannabis will now be categorized as a controlled, restricted substance under the act.

This means that its cultivation, processing, production and trade is subject to the Swiss surveillance authority for medicines and medical devices, like other narcotics which are used for medical purposes, such as morphine and methadone. 

According to a statement from Switzerland’s main cannabis company, Pure Holdings AG, prescribing doctors will no longer have to request an exceptional authorisation from the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) for treatment.

However, they are obliged to provide the FOPH with information on treatment during the first few years after the amendment to the law comes into force. The aim of this is to monitor the development of the prescription of cannabis medicines and to be able to understand their effects. 

In addition, the amendment of the law means that commercial export of THC cannabis for medical purposes is now permitted.

In its statement, Pure Holding AG, which has four THC exemption permits from the Federal Office of Public Health, said the amendment would allow patients and prescribers to “better leverage the potential of cannabis as a medicine”.

“Pure Holding AG applauds the decision of the Council of States,” it said.

“Currently, we are in the process of preparing a state-of-the-art cannabis indoor production facility. We will produce flowers of the highest quality for the medical market.

Previously patients who wished to access medical cannabis treatment had to obtain “exceptional authorisation” from the FOPH. This latest move puts the final decision in the hands of the doctor, rather than the government.

The proposal was tabled following the vote by the United Nations Commission of Narcotic Drugs (CND) to remove cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention, acknowledging that cannabis is not a dangerous drug. 

Sarah Sinclair is a respected cannabis journalist writing on subjects related to science, medicine, research, health and wellness. She is managing editor of Cannabis Health, the UK’s leading title covering medical cannabis and CBD, and sister titles, Cannabis Wealth and Psychedelic Health. Sarah has an NCTJ journalism qualification and an MA in Journalism from the University of Sunderland. Sarah has over six years experience working on newspapers, magazines and digital-first titles, the last two of which have been in the cannabis sector. She has also completed training through the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society securing a certificate in Medical Cannabis Explained. She is a member of PLEA’s (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) advisory board, has hosted several webinars on cannabis and women's health and has moderated at industry events such as Cannabis Europa. Sarah Sinclair is the editor of Cannabis Health. Got a story? Email / Follow us on Twitter: @CannabisHNews / Instagram: @cannabishealthmag


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