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Two Swiss Cannabis Pilots Begin Sales, France’s Medical Cannabis Budget Passed, and New Maltese Cannabis Associations Get Approved

Switzerland’s pilots begin sales 

Two of Switzerland’s adult-use cannabis pilot projects have entered their sales phase over the last week as the country’s ambitious programme enters a critical phase.

Cann-L was the third Swiss study to be approved by the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) in March this year, and is set to involve 1600 citizens throughout the country’s Lausanne municipalities.

Aimed at examining the feasibility of regulating cannabis ‘through non-profit sales’, the project was initially set to begin in July this year.

However, the non-profit sales are now expected to begin today (Monday December 11, 2023) at a dedicated store at rue du Maupas 7.

The store will offer a range of products to the 250 participants who have already registered in the pilot project, including three gram bags of flower with potencies varying from 5% THC to 15%, costing between nine and 12 Swiss Francs per gramme (roughly £8-£10)

Meanwhile, Grashaus Project, set to be Switzerland’s largest pilot project with nearly 4000 participants, also opened the doors to its first dedicated cannabis store last week (December 07).

The ‘first legal cannabis specialist shop’ in Europe opened its doors in Allschwil in the northwestern Swiss canton of Basel-Landschaft, enabling the hundreds of patients who have already registered for the pilot to purchase a raft of products from flower to hashish, extracts, vape liquids and edibles.

It comes just weeks after the pilot, which aims to examine the regulated sale of cannabis for non-medical purposes, was approved by the FOHP in October.

Finn Hänsel, CEO of the Sanity Group, which is behind the project together with the Swiss Institute for Addiction and Health Research (ISGF), said: “Our goal is to offer high quality products in a safe and regulated environment. We also see our shop as a place of enlightenment. The opening marks a significant step towards a modern cannabis policy in Europe.”

France’s medical cannabis budget approved by National Assembly 

France’s National Assembly has now definitively approved the Social Security Financing Bill (PLFSS) for 2024, which is set to see medical cannabis brought into the country’s general medical framework for the first time.

The PLFSS, which lays out the budget and financial measures related to social security for the coming fiscal year, was ‘definitively adopted’ on Monday December 01 after a last ditch ‘motion of censure’ put forward by left-wing groups was rejected.

Its €640bn budget, by way of a last minute amendment tabled in late October, will enable the thousands of patients currently receiving a medical cannabis prescription as part of the country’s pilot programme to continue accessing these products.

Crucially however, the amendments, which were made in response to continued pressure from campaign groups, will enable medical cannabis products to receive ‘temporary authorisation’ to be brought into the country’s general medical framework and prescribed by doctors.

These temporary authorisations will be granted on a case-by-case basis and last for five years, and can be renewed by the French Authorities indefinitely.

While this does not yet represent fully fledged generalisation of medical cannabis as many in the industry had hoped, the amendment stipulates that when the pilot comes to an end in April 2024, there will be a maximum ‘transition period’ of nine months, by which time generalisation is expected.

The government has set aside a budget of €10m for this transition period, which will enable patients to continue accessing their medicines and be reimbursed. This is five times the current budget for the experiment.

Malta approves three new cultivation associations

Malta’s cannabis regulator has issued licences for three more so-called Cannabis Harm Reduction Associations (CHRA), bringing the total to five.

Sprawt, Northern Lights and NEGE will now be able to proceed with the distribution of cannabis to their members subject to having their products approved by the Authority for the Responsible Use of Cannabis (ARUC).

They will join KDD Society and Ta’ Zelli, which were granted the country’s first two ‘in-principle’ licences back in August, before receiving the official green light two months later.

Alongside the issuance of new licences, ARUC has organised the country’s first ‘harm reduction training’ sessions for licencees and in principle associations on November 28th and 29th, marking another step forward for the island nation’s pioneering cannabis liberalisation scheme.

As part of this forward march, a new adult-use cannabis cultivation facility has been proposed on a stretch of 55,300sq ft agricultural land on the Maltese island of Gozo, according to local news reports.

The submitted ‘Project Development Statement’ (PSD) gives no indication as to which of the country’s CHRA’s put forward the proposal, and the planning application still has to be vetted and issued for public consultation before being approved.

While progress continues to be made, Malta’s cannabis industry is continuing to push for changes to the country’s framework.

Under the current laws, Maltese citizens are able to cultivate four cannabis plants at home. However, the cap on cannabis possession currently stands at 50g.

Releaf Malta is calling for this cap to be raised, arguing that it ‘places responsible adult home cultivators at risk of unwarranted trafficking allegations and the consequential severe legal ramifications’.

This issue was also recently addressed in Germany, where legislators made a last-minute amendment to its draft CanG bill to raise possession limits from 25g to 50g to reflect the realistic yield of three home grown plants.

Releaf Malta’s Andrew Bonello is calling for limits to be raised from 50g to 400g, a level he suggests ‘aligns more realistically with the attainable yield achievable through personal home cultivation’.

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