No Cannabis Social Club in 2022 yet: what happened?

Although we were ready to launch, our Cannabis Social Club has not yet been able to open its doors 2022. We are looking into why things are not moving as fast as we would like. Theconditions for the pilot projects are strict and the permits take time.

Already on December 2, 2021, we had founded the spin-off-association “Legalize it! Social Club” to participate in the planned Zurich cannabis pilot study. We hoped to be able to hold a GV on the occasion of the first anniversary and to be able to enjoy the finest weed from good Swiss cultivation, legally. But it was foreseeable that it would not be that easy. What happened in 2022 and why couldn't we open our social club yet?

A lot of work was done

The foundation of the association formed the basis for submitting an application to participate in the city of Zurich pilot project. The city of Zurich had already granted us preliminary approval at the end of March 2022. Since then, it was the city's turn to work out a study design, develop a questionnaire, take care of the cooperation with the cannabis suppliers and submit everything (as required by law) to the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) at the beginning of June.

Our Social Club was able to actively participate in the process. Thus, we provided valuable input for the questionnaire from the point of view of the users, produced visual material for the questionnaire and sat in on the interviews to select the future producers.

Actively using the wait

Then the ball was in the FOPH's court and this forced us to wait. The challenge is that certain work can only be done after we have written permission from the FOPH and it is clear when we can start. So we held back on looking for a suitable clubhouse, because what do you want to rent if you don't even know when it will start and what the requirements are?

Instead, we have already prepared behind the scenes what was possible. Michael has worked hard and created the website hanfstüb.li for the club. An online member database and a complete store with a functioning order process, including payment processing via TWINT, have already been prepared there.

Sonia has been dealing with the authorities regarding the space situation. There are conditions to be fulfilled - and this has a direct impact on the search for a suitable clubhouse. However, no one has been able to give us any real information yet, because the authorities never want to comment in general, but only on specific rental objects. In order to find a suitable rental property, we again need general clues. A classic chicken-and-egg problem.

We have interested parties for over 70% of the spaces. In fact, we could have started a long time ago if we were not still waiting for approval from the FOPH.

Why is it not moving forward?

As an explanation for the repeated delays, the City of Zurich refers in its press release to the “high complexity of the project with different sources of supply”. The fact that there is even the possibility of running a social club with the city of Zurich as part of the pilot projects is not a matter of course. Other cities like Basel or Winterthur rely only on pharmacies - for the sake of simplicity. In Zurich, great efforts are being made to test alternative distribution concepts as well and they are willing to take on this additional effort.

We would like to take this opportunity to express our sincere thanks for this commitment. We hope that the preliminary work in Zurich will pave the way to make it easier to authorize cannabis social clubs in other cities' future projects as well.

The preparation of the application took longer than planned on the part of the city of Zurich. And then it took the FOPH a quarter of a year to respond. Projects of this scale always take a long time in large organizations. Many levels work together and there will always be someone who has to wait, has an objection or wants something checked. This cumulates and leads to delays that are not comprehensible to outsiders.

An additional factor is that the cannabis pilot trials are just one of many projects for the city and the FOPH. And practice also shows us again and again that the debate about cannabis usually has low priority. Cannabis is currently simply not a visible social problem that needs to be solved as soon as possible. The officials who have been entrusted with the implementation of these pilot projects are hardly personally affected - it is simply one dossier among many that has to be dealt with.

Nobody wants to get their fingers burned

In addition to the organizational complexity, the requirements on the part of politics are also high. The regulations are strictly formulated and leave little room for experimentation. But this is precisely what would be needed to explore the many aspects of controlled access to cannabis and to move the project forward quickly. The constraints come from politics in particular. It is the old unfounded fears and irrational anxieties surrounding cannabis that are once again being instrumentalized.

For example, as a CSC, we are not allowed to produce the cannabis ourselves. It is legally stipulated that “good agricultural and collection practice (GACP)” must be followed for this scientific study, and that it must be professionally produced. Even the producer contracted in the Basel pilot project was not able to meet the enormously high requirements in the first harvest. Therefore, the project is delayed and the producer has to grow again.

So completely lost was the central feature of the cultivation community, from which the model “Cannabis Social Club” originally arose. This is a shame, because it means that it is not possible to scientifically study how well the model of local, community cultivation works.

The challenge now is to find a compromise between feasibility and compliance. In the end, it turns out that the authorities tend not to soften the specifications and to fulfill the requirements meticulously. Implementation will be correspondingly arduous.

Now the city of Zurich has sent a 50-page letter to the FOPH to improve the application. As soon as the FOPH is satisfied with the improvements, approval will follow. Participants should be able to join the study from March 2023. The first study cannabis would then be sold in June or July 2023.

It could also be simpler

We would prefer a pragmatic approach, such as simply decriminalizing private consumption and non-commercial cultivation of cannabis throughout Switzerland. Then it would gradually become clear where the challenges lie and we could implement a practical legalization in a targeted manner.

However, it can hardly be assumed that such a scenario has a real chance in Swiss drug policy. The pilot projects are now simply the next piece of the puzzle towards a more relaxed approach to cannabis.

We stay tuned

Ultimately, our Association has neither the financial nor the human resources to implement a completely separate pilot project, including scientific supervision. The commitment of the city of Zurich is a unique opportunity to participate nevertheless. We will stay tuned. This is the only way we can contribute to a good success and show that dealing with cannabis in a private club setting is a good thing.

Last modified: 2023/03/23 15:12

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Shit happens 15 (Summer 2023)

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