Do the Swiss Have The European CBD Market Cornered?

Switzerland currently has some 560 CBD producers, according to the Swiss customs authority.

This piece in Handelsblatt Global talks about Swiss CBD chocolate producer KannaSwiss and provides a nice insight as to how the Swiss CBD market operates.

KannaSwiss plans to specialize in CBD oil and oil derivatives. Most of the CBD used medicinally is found in the least processed form of the cannabis plant, known as hemp.

KannaSwiss plans to branch out from Switzerland into Germany. “We hope our oil will be available in 1,000 pharmacies by the end of the year,” said Mr. Blatnik, who last year became marketing chief. But it doesn’t come cheap, as three grams cost some 150 Swiss francs ($157). “We’re aiming for the premium segment,” explained Mr. Blatnik.

But there’s still a chance the business model could go up in smoke. The right-wing Swiss People’s Party wants to reduce the permitted threshold of THC, which could hurt CBD producers like KannaSwiss. And CBD opponents fear that legal marijuana could serve as a gateway drug for illegal cannabis with a high proportion of THC.

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Is Cannabis Legal In Switzerland?

Whilst cannabis with THC content above 1% is still illegal – although minor possession (up to 10 grams) was decriminalized to a fine in 2012 – legal, over-the-counter sales of high-CBD cannabis are exploding, with more and more clean and bright dispensaries popping up in Zurich, Basel, Geneva, and beyond, as well as spreading to nearby Austria.

The legal cannabis boom is a result of an amendment to the Swiss Narcotics Act in 2011 that allowed cannabis with an average THC content of less than 1% to be grown. This amendment initially came about to loosen restrictions on the hemp fabric and cosmetic industries. The amendment went rather unnoticed for a number of years until, in 2016, a campaign from the customs office to collect tax on the small amounts of low-potency cannabis that was being sold served as a reminder to businesses that the government was condoning the sale of cannabis.

Big Business

Subsequently, the number of retailers selling low-THC cannabis has risen to more than 140 from just a handful last year, with the customs office expecting revenue of around $25 million on legal sales of $100 million from cannabis in 2017, although the figure could be far higher if the boom continues.

“It started gradually last year, and then suddenly things went crazy in December 2016 and in 2017,” a spokesman for Switzerland’s Customs Agency in Berne told Reuters.

CBD-Rich Hemp As A Tobacco Substitute

The hemp buds – which are indistinguishable in sight and smell from ‘the real thing’ – are being given names like “Sweet Indoor Royal Flush” and “Tropical Forest”, packaged in aesthetically pleasing pouches and marketed as a tobacco substitute.

Although the carcinogenic risks associated with inhaling combusted plant material remains an issue, substituting tobacco, along with its myriad of added chemicals, for organically grown CBD-rich cannabis is undoubtedly a healthier option. And given the fact that, as is the case throughout much of Europe, many Swiss cannabis users smoke their herb alongside tobacco in the form of joints, the use of hemp as a tobacco substitute may well prove to significantly lower cannabis users’ exposure to tobacco. Add to that the results of a small study that took place in 2013 which found that CBD reduces the consumption of cigarettes in smokers by up to 40%, and it seems that high-CBD hemp may also have some value in the cessation of tobacco use.


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