Switzerland Shares First Data on ‘ZüriCan’ Adult-Use Cannabis Pilot Study

The adult-use cannabis pilot program in Switzerland is alive and well, and the country has shared its first batch of initial insights surrounding consumer trends, product sales and more.
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European countries are gradually turning their attention toward cannabis reform as medical and adult-use cannabis steadily become the new status quo in states around the U.S. While Germany gears up to launch its adult-use program next month, Switzerland has embraced an alternative approach in the form of an adult-use cannabis pilot program.

Earlier in March, Swiss officials published the first data from its pilot study in Zürich, offering initial insights on the demand for legal cannabis in the country along with some emerging consumer trends.

The results of the study will be used to determine what, if any, public health implications adult-use cannabis availability might inflict on Switzerland as well as the rest of Europe.

Switzerland is currently running trials in the cities of Lausanne, Zürich, Liestal, Allschwil, Bern, Bienne, and Lucerne, along with the cantons of Basel-Stadt and Geneva.

A First Look at Cannabis Consumers in the Swiss Pilot Program

Regarding the recently shared data on the “ZüriCan” study, a total of 2,100 people are able to take part with 1,928 currently included and eligible to purchase cannabis as part of the study. 

Significantly more men (80.7%) than women (18%) or nonbinary people (1.2%) are taking part. This disparity was predicted, with researchers referencing a country-wide online survey from 2016 that similarly showed the majority of Swiss cannabis consumers were men. The 28-32 age group is also the most frequently represented in the study, with a mean age of 35 years.

The data also takes a closer look at the consumption habits of study participants, with the majority consuming cannabis four or more times a week.

“Participation in the study seems to be particularly attractive for people who consume frequently,” researchers state via translation. “However, people who only use cannabis a few times a month also take part in the study. This will allow us to compare people with different consumption habits in our study.”

Researchers also note that approximately a fourth of participants had evidence of a cannabis use disorder before they had access to the products in the study — confirmed via a screening questionnaire, the Cannabis Use Disorder Identification Test (CUDIT). Researchers note that this trend mirrors other similar studies.

Acknowledging and honing focus on this variable could also prove to be valuable from a research perspective:

“Regulated distribution of cannabis can create a framework that promotes lower-risk cannabis consumption. In particular, cannabis users who have problematic consumption have easier access to advice and treatment services,” authors note. “… The sales staff at the reference points have been specially trained to provide advice and prevention so that individual, targeted advice is possible. Since study participants always buy their study cannabis from the same source, a closer relationship of trust can develop over time, in which problematic developments can also be identified and discussed.”

The program originally offered five options, but in December 2023, it expanded to include nine different cannabis products — five flower and four hash products — with varying levels of THC and CBD. Researchers note that study participants have requested “all products,” with a total of approximately 16,500 sales so far and a total of around 140 kg (around 309 lbs) of cannabis products sold in five-gram packs.

The data did not include any further breakdowns surrounding consumer behavior or the popularity of specific products, however.

The European cannabis company Cannavigia is working with the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health on the study, namely to track cannabis sales and provide data on consumption trends through its Cannabis Dispensary System. 

According to Cannavigia Head of Marketing Tobias Viegener, these initial findings are already providing some major insights.

“The initial data from the ‘ZüriCan’ pilot, published this month, reveals promising insights into the regulated cannabis market’s functionality and its acceptance among participants,” he told Forbes. “This level of engagement indicates a positive reception and an effective distribution system, setting a solid foundation for informing future cannabis policy and regulation.”

Another Cannabis Study is Coming to Switzerland Soon

On March 18, officials also shared an announcement of the country’s latest study, which will run for five years and could see as many as 7,500 participants — Switzerland’s largest trial to date. 

The study will also include a comparison group, with consumers continuing to source cannabis through the illicit market, while the other groups located in Winterthur, Schlieren and Horgen will have access to regulated products through participating pharmacies and retail locations.

Cannavigia software will also be used in the recently announced Canton Zürich pilot study. 

According to the Federal Office of Public Health, “The aim of the pilot trial in the canton of Zürich is to investigate the social and economic consequences of legalising recreational cannabis use in Switzerland. In addition, the effects of a self-regulation programme for the prevention of excessive cannabis use are to be studied. This involves a randomised controlled trial (RCT).”

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