After the Council of States unanimously approved a bill to amend the Narcotics Act (BetmG) with regard to cannabis medicines at the beginning of March, the bill passed through the National Council relatively uncontested. This amendment is intended to finally facilitate access to cannabis medicines.
Until now, physicians had to obtain a special permit from the FOPH in order to prescribe medical cannabis products to their patients. This intermediate bureaucratic step was disproportionately burdensome for both the medical practices and the FOPH, which had to process nearly 3000 “exception” requests in 2019 alone. Since many physicians understandably shy away from this effort, the current regulation has had a delaying or even preventing effect on access to useful cannabis medicines.
With the revision, this access is now to be greatly facilitated. Cannabis medicines may now be prescribed without an exemption permit, finally ensuring freedom of therapy. Medical cannabis products are now under the control of Swissmedic, as is normally the case for medical products.
For non-medical cannabis, nothing has changed with the passage of this bill. Besides the symbolic value of each urgently needed step towards more coherent legislation, the regulation nevertheless offers new opportunities for a company producing and distributing hemp products: the commercial export of medical cannabis products is now to be permitted, and in parallel the seed and planting material law is to be adapted to enable the cultivation of medical hemp on a larger scale in the first place.
As a company from the cannabis industry (and member of IG-Hanf), we are pleased that the legal and political situation is now also developing positively in Switzerland, as the EU has moved forward in recent months with sometimes unusually large steps.