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Swiss Pilot Study Shows Trend Towards ‘Lower-Risk’ Cannabis Consumption

Swiss Pilot Study Shows Trend Towards ‘Lower-Risk’ Cannabis Consumption

Six months on from the opening of Europe’s first legal cannabis stores in Switzerland, experts are reporting trends towards regulated sales and ‘lower-risk’ consumption methods, such as edibles and extracts.

Sarah Sinclair

10 July 2024 at 16:00:00

This report from The Business of Cannabis published on 10 July 2024.

The first data collected from the Grashaus Project in the canton of Basel-Landschaft, which launched at the end of 2023 and is due to last for five years, has been published by Sanity Group.

The pilot study is one of seven approved by the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) to examine the effects of legal, regulated sales of cannabis for recreational use through licensed specialist shops in regions throughout the country.

The first of these shops opened in Allschwil in December, with trained specialists known as “budtenders” to educate participants on safer use pexelsand provide advice on the various cannabis products such as dried flowers, hashish, extracts, vape liquids and edibles.

Over 700 people are now reported to be enrolled in the study, which is designed to include up to 4,000 participants. Around 80% of those taking part so far identify as male and almost a quarter are aged between 23-27-years-old.

Consumption behaviour and the physical and mental health of the participants is being recorded throughout the study period, with social impacts— particularly in relation to public safety and order—analysed in close collaboration with the public prosecutor’s office and relevant health and social authorities.

Trend towards lower-risk forms of consumption

Already those involved in the project are reporting a visible trend towards “lower-risk” forms of consumption and a decline in flower and hashish use.

The first interim analysis of the data collected so far examined the age and gender distribution of participants, quantities of cannabis products dispensed, forms and frequency of consumption, and dropouts.

A decline in average flower and hashish consumption per participant was identified around four months into the study, with alternative forms of consumption such as extracts, vapes and edibles showing the strongest growth.

Sales of extracts in particular are said to have increased by around 50% since the start, a development which could be due to the ‘targeted professional advice’ which is being delivered on forms of consumption that are less harmful to health than smoking.

Consumers want safe, high-quality products

The initial response to the pilot was said to be ‘positive’ with ‘security of supply’ and ‘product quality’ primary reasons for taking part.

More than 5,000 products, including around 35kg of cannabis flowers and around 4kg of hashish, are now reported to have been dispensed via the two sales outlets in Allschwil and Liestal.

Researchers say that the proportion of parallel purchases of products from the illegal market appears to be decreasing in line with this.

In surveys at the beginning of the study, test subjects stated that they obtained cannabis from illegal sources on average around 20 days per month.

During the course of their participation in the study, the number had fallen by 50% to around 10 days. At the same time, the number of days per month on which test subjects consumed study products was around 20 days.

Professor Michael Schaub, Scientific Director of the Swiss Institute for Addiction and Health Research ISGF, who is directing the study, commented: “The fact that we have been able to record such initial successes, thanks in part to targeted professional advice in the sales outlets, is a hopeful development. Because the aim of the pilot project, to make high-quality, safe products from controlled sources available to consumers and thus to minimise health risks in particular, is of course always the focus.

He added: “We hope to destigmatize the use of cannabis, to create an evidence-based basis for the further legalisation debate in Switzerland and to be able to prove in the long term that a wide range of high-quality products can represent a real alternative for consumers to the unregulated market.”

All products are produced by the Swiss cultivation partner SwissExtract in accordance with the quality requirements of the Ordinance on Pilot Trials under the Narcotics Act (BetmPV), with flower currently priced between eight and 12 Swiss francs per gram, depending on THC content.

Timely price adjustments and expansions of the range of available products are said to be planned in order to be able to compete with the illegal market.

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