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In Switzerland, Low THC Cannabis Is Big Money

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Neutrality has its benefits. For Switzerland, it meant staying out of wars and staying off of Risk boards. It also means a booming legal marijuana trade — but not like the cafe culture in Amsterdam, and nothing like dab culture in Colorado or California.

In the mean, clean streets of Bern, customers are loading up on tens of millions of dollars’ worth of low-THC cannabis, according to Reuters. What we’d call hemp — or worse — is proving exceedingly popular, and is turning into big business.

It was almost very different. Switzerland is not a member of the European Union. This means EU-wide prohibitions on cannabis don’t apply. This nearly led to the country becoming the first nation in Europe to enjoy legalized recreational cannabis, before Swiss leaders bowed to pressure from the United Nations — which Switzerland joined in the early 2000s — and conformed to a 1961 treaty outlawing a host of narcotics, including marijuana.

But the cannabis sativa plant isn’t marijuana if it has low THC. Then, it’s hemp. In Switzerland, it’s been perfectly legal to cultivate, buy and sell, and consume cannabis with 1 percent THC or lower since 2011.

Who cares, you might ask yourself. Maybe it took six years for the Swiss to figure out this was a big deal, or maybe it took that long for cultivators to figure out how to grow top-shelf strains without the familiar pop. It could also be the fault of the Swiss government, which last year informed the few hemp shops in business at that time that it was time to pay taxes on their weed — which alerted the rest of the country to the fact that, hey, low-THC weed is legal.

Whatever the reason for the delay, there are now 140 licensed retailers selling low-THC cannabis in Switzerland, according to Reuters. (Just last year, there were only a “handful.”) And these retailers are expected to sell $100 million worth of low-THC cannabis this year. And that is but a sober, low-ball estimate.

One of the biggest growers and retailers is KannaSwiss. The firm has grown from five employees to 20, and recently showed Reuters around a grow room with 3,000 plants. Smoking their stuff feels like “drinking a couple glasses of wine,” or “a body high, but your mind is completely clear,” as company boss Corso Serra di Cassano described it.

It’s not quite perfect, as Swiss police will confiscate marijuana discovered on the street, with the excuse that they can’t tell whether it’s the legal kind or if it has high THC. It all goes to show that human beings will buy weed, and lots of it, in whatever form it’s available — mind-warping, zombie-creating synthetic, a mild Swiss buzz, or big globs of mind-bending dabs. Which would you prefer?

This article was initially published on Cannabis Now.

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