The old saying goes that good things come to those who wait, so we hope that the wait is almost over
In 2008, Switzerland held a referendum to decide the future of cannabis in the country. Due to their democratic system, any issue can be taken to a citizen vote if 100,000 people sign an initiative, and, off the back of some keen promotion, a fair proportion of Swiss citizens decided that it was time to look at the issue.
As a result of this landmark vote, the LStup Law changed in 2011. It was decided that recreational use of cannabis would remain a criminal offence, however, the use of medicinal cannabis with the stipulation that it required an exceptional authorisation was allowed. What does this mean exactly? In essence, it enabled doctors to prescribe cannabis for patients who had already been offered all other courses of medicine with no great level of success.
Whilst this was seen as a relatively positive outcome by some, the reality of the situation meant that all patients who were deemed to fit the criteria only had the option of receiving their prescription from one pharmacy, and only one medicinal product was made available to them. Those who saw the negative aspects of the move argued that the only option available was not up to the standard of cannabis medicines in other parts of the world due to its limited concentration of 2% CBD: 1% THC, and extortionate cost (235 Swiss Francs for 20ml). In the minds of many, the result of the vote was being exploited for profit at the detriment to the quality of care for patients.
Furthermore, the decision to maintain the illegality of recreational use has meant that the black market continues to thrive while consumers are still treated as criminals for choosing to purchase their cannabis through non-official channels. Even medicinal users, some of whom fit the criteria for ‘exceptional circumstances’, find themselves caught between the confines of the law and their desire for a better quality of life, because they feel they have no viable option other than buying higher strength strains from illegal growers. Many people have found that their health insurance won’t cover the cost of their “Exceptional authorisation medicinal cannabis treatment” and it is often the case that people perceive the official channels as being more trouble than they are worth.
As if this situation wasn’t difficult enough, many consumers find themselves facing an unknown when it comes to how they will be treated by the authorities if they are found to be in breach of the law. LStup Law changed again in 2013, Officials state that any person found in consumption and/or possession of less than 10g of cannabis (> 1% THC total) should be issued with a 100 Franc penalty (no additional criminal charges placed against them); yet some people report that this is an unfair response, because minor possession charges are often thrown out of court if those who are accused are given the opportunity to plead their case in front of a judge. It often becomes the case that anyone caught in possession of cannabis faces a lottery situation as they are not always given the option to explain their situation and end up being fined, losing their medicine and then having no option other than going back to the black market to risk the same happening all over again. Over the past few years, however, some people have been working hard to fight for real change.
Gregory Schaeffer and his associates have dedicated themselves to the exploration of cannabis as a medicine, wellness, recreational/social and sacramental drug for the purpose of spreading information and education in the hope of bringing empowerment to the Swiss people. Having spent many years within the pharmaceutical industry, Gregory is using his insider knowledge to assist the cause of cannabis and aims to focus on diffusing pre-existing research into the public domain, while focusing their efforts on providing qualitative and quantitative results relating to pharmacovigilance, health benefits, quality control & assurance and the need for a Fair regulated industry.
Having spent many years growing illegally for his own medicinal, wellness and social use, Gregory invested his efforts in researching various phenotypes and chemotypes profiles to determine the impact of cannabinoids and terpenes (Effect Entourage) on pain relief. As his work progressed, in 2016, he founded an association called the NGO SWISS SAFE ACCESS FOR CANNABINOIDS (SSAC), which acted in the same role as organizations such as NORML in the UK and aimed to share information with people in the hopes of reducing the perception of risk, which came with the stigma of cannabis use. In time, his scope expanded and his work with other independent organizations lead to a unified effort due to their shared ideals. Thanks to his previous role as Quality Assurance Manager within the pharmaceutical industry, Gregory was well-informed about how to approach this situation whilst remaining on the right side of the authorities.
SSAC is convinced that organic forms of cannabis should be available to all people so that they have the option to medicate themselves in the way that they see fit. In principle, it comes down to their firm belief that people should always be given the freedom to choose, but for this to work effectively, they understand and appreciate that people need all the relevant information to enable an informed decision to be made. Gregory and his cohorts want to see regulated access to a high standard of safe cannabis at a fair price and believe that, ultimately, private personal (Homegrowing) or collective (CSC) right to “Auto production” is the best way to counter the black market.
Currently, the organization has a number of projects (5 so far) they are working on, all of which have huge significance for the future of cannabis in Switzerland and the wider world: they are collaborating with a landmark laboratory which will focus on specialized research in the hope of establishing new methods of quantifying and qualifying cannabinoids and terpene profiles; their SSAC organization is pushing for a framework of regulation and normalization of cannabis usage; the SNV (Swiss Norms Association) is seeking to establish standardization, normalization for cultivation, manufacturing, analysis and distribution of cannabis; SSAC start to set up information points in pharmacists, practitioners, grow shops and CBD shops around Switzerland to inform people about the harmless use of phytocannabinoids and explain how the endocannabinoid system (ECS) works; the organization has sponsored events to develop their profile, including the UFCM ICare Conference in Strasbourg and Paris. This year they are also, co-organizing a conference in Geneva for cannabis activists, residents, citizens, researchers and representatives from both medical and governmental organizations. On the 9th June, 2018, a number of guest speakers, associations and corporate bodies will present their actions, opinions and ideas for helping to shift perception towards a more evidence-based discussion of cannabis within a civil society. This conference has the potential to be a benchmark for future events and is the result of years of dedication and hard work from all those involved.
In the 4,000 years history of modern civilization, there has never been a proven occurrence of cannabis causing any harm to anyone, yet we still find ourselves fighting the stigma of evil at every corner. As we move forward, people are beginning to recognize the truth of the situation, but as trust begins to develop, Gregory’s concerns are shifting to the ways in which cannabis can be monetized and monopolized by those who favour profit over quality of product. He knows that it is important that every tentative step towards decriminalization is a positive thing, but he would prefer that things are done properly (Fairness) and “good the first time”. The old saying goes that good things come to those who wait, so we hope that the wait is almost over.
Originally Published in Weed World Magazine Issue 135