What applies when dealing with THC in Switzerland?


In the yellow boxes we indicate the laws that are crucial for the corresponding topic. All laws and ordinances can be found in the SR Systematic Collection of Laws (see hanflegal.ch/sr). The NarcA has the number 812.121, the ordinances 812.121.1, 812.121.11 and 812.121.6.


In the orange boxes, we summarize the most important conditions so that the provisions of the laws can or must take effect in reality. Here we try to summarize the core of the facts in a concise and understandable way.


In the green boxes, we provide tips for better or at least less bad handling of legal regulations. In general, it is important to imagine possible stressful situations before they happen. This is the only way to be prepared when it does happen.


In the red boxes, we describe the range of punishments that belong to the described topic, usually with an example, so that we can show what is in store for those affected. Ultimately (except for the fixed penalties) each case is judged individually, which leads to a range of variation.


What applies when dealing with THC in Switzerland?

THC is prohibited and allowed

From a content of 1.0 % THC, THC-containing products are prohibited in Switzerland. The Narcotics Act (NarcA) thus defines the “narcotics of the effect type cannabis” and prohibits the handling thereof.

There are different levels of illegality: preparatory acts, consumption, passing on acts and commercial dealing. The penalties are varied: from a warning without costs to 20 years imprisonment, everything is possible.

Nevertheless, there are also products containing THC that are legal – some food products may contain traces of THC and may be consumed by everyone as well as sold commercially.

As medicine, preparations with more than 1% THC can be taken, but doctors are still extremely reluctant and rarely prescribe cannabis. (We leave out the special topic of scientific trials).

In addition to the Narcotics Act and the Fixed Penalties Act (OBG), there are other laws in which THC occurs: e.g. the Food Act or the Road Traffic Act. Driver's license and THC in blood is a big issue – the zero tolerance towards cannabis has led to extremely low limits for THC in blood. There are also recurring problems for THC users when living and working. In agriculture, for example, there are regulations for animal feed.

All of our comments generally refer to adults unless otherwise noted. Action against adolescents is even more difficult to deal with in general than the prosecution of adults and follows in a separate chapter.

The NarcA is a harsh law that no one should underestimate!

The list of prohibited narcotics includes four classes of substances, including the “narcotic of the effect type cannabis”. All substances with at least 1.0% THC are considered such narcotics. Only the THC content of a plant or substance determines whether it is illegal or not. hemp seeds and plantlets are also illegal if they can reach 1.0 % THC.

A truly comprehensive ban

Pretty much everything is prohibited: growing, manufacturing, producing, storing, shipping, transporting, importing, exporting, carrying out, disposing of, prescribing, procuring, putting into circulation, possessing, keeping, acquiring, obtaining, financing, arranging financing, publicly soliciting consumption, or announcing opportunities for acquisition or consumption. Even preparatory acts for these activities are prohibited.

Thus, all such acts are fundamentally illegal misdemeanor. If the police and the judiciary find that someone has committed such acts, massive punishment will follow (entry in the criminal register, fine, procedural costs, monetary penalty or imprisonment for months or years).

Even consumption is prohibited

Unauthorized consumption of narcotics is also punishable. However, the consumption and the necessary preparatory acts (such as possession, purchase, cultivation, smuggling) are contravention (and not misdemeanor). The penalty for such contraventions is a fine (for example, 200 francs fine, plus various writing, delivery and other fees, where the fines are higher if someone is repeatedly punished - this without entry in the criminal record).

In 2013, the provisions of the fixed penalty bill were added (100 francs fine for cannabis use detected by the police, without questioning / protocol and without fees) and transferred to the OBG as of 1.1.2020.

Cantonal differences in repression

The criminal prosecution is a matter for the cantons. This leads to great differences in the amount of fines imposed on users (ranging from discontinuation of proceedings to fines and fees of 1,000 francs, even for the first time). The fixed penalty were also initially applied very differently in the cantons.

Our colored boxes

In these we summarize the most important points (on this page you will find explanations of their contents). In the blue boxes we present new developments. In the purple boxes we give an outlook on future developments.

Cannabis Pilot Projects

Cannabis dispensary projects in cities have been discussed since 2005. Now the temporary change in the law for this is in force: since May 2021 applications can be submitted, from 2023 the first such projects have started and must be completed by 2031. Within this controlled and limited framework (e.g. no public consumption, no passing on), it is legal for participants to handle THC-rich hemp. Info on specific developments on cannabis pilot testing.

Discussions around the NarcA

The topic NarcA: Hardly revised, it was revised again and again discussions about a change of the NarcA are going on. Also another, more flexible interpretation of NarcA is occasionally considered. But we would like to point out: These are, once again, discussions. In real terms, everything continues to be pursued. Here are our articles on this from the last few years.

Narcotics Act

The Narcotics Law (NarcA) regulates all legal issues arising in connection with psychoactive substances. It is a comprehensive and very harsh law. Our collection on legal issues started with this topic. Meanwhile we have 37 folders in use and also collected many other legal topics beyond the NarcA.

Current narcotics law

Interpretation of current narcotics law

Partial revision of the Narcotics Act

Origin of the partial revisions

For a long time, the commissions and councils discussed a revision of the Narcotics Law. Finally, two partial revisions have emerged, both of which have now entered into force.

Old narcotics laws

A good overview of the old Narcotics Law can be found in the lecture notes of Prof. Albrecht, a Swiss professor of criminal law. Unfortunately, this information is now only available in book form: Die Strafbestimmungen des Betäubungsmittelgesetzes (Art. 19-28 NarcA)

Interpretation of old narcotics law


Our Federal Constitution of 1848 regulates the fundamental areas of the Swiss legal system. After a total revision in 1874, the referendum was introduced at the federal level. The last partial revision dates back to 1999 and was accepted by the people and the cantons with 59.2%.

We are specifically interested in the following items:

  1. Personal freedom
  2. Freedom to shape one's life/lifestyle
  3. Right to integrity/medicine
  4. Right to self harm
  5. Equal treatment with other substances
  6. Economic freedom


These general constitutional principles can be interpreted in different ways. In principle, however, the constitutional provisions in Switzerland are accepted more as background noise - but they must not set the pace. That is almost exclusively the responsibility of the law. And there, THC consumption is simply forbidden. Also lawsuits according to the Human Rights Convention had no chance until today.

A different approach to the constitution in Germany - Federal Constitutional Court decision on the constitutionality of the ban on cannabis:

International Law

Swiss law actually applies in Switzerland. But this also contains elements that have been negotiated between states. This international law is part of the Swiss legal system. Psychoactive substances are also covered by international law. In addition, the UN maintains various bodies that deal with these substances.

International conventions

For over a hundred years, the international community has concluded various agreements regulating the handling of psychoactive substances. The most important ones that Switzerland has signed are the following:


The following sub-organizations of the UN deal with psychoactive substances:

  • UNODC - United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime felony)

Specifically addressing THC are the following UNO parts:

  • INCB - The International Narcotics Control Board

In the following article, we look at the discussions that took place before Switzerland joined the UN:


Last modified: 2024/03/27 08:56

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Legal overview

Shit happens 15 (Summer 2023)

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