For the first time, cannabis is being sold legally in Switzerland. On 30 January, selected participants of the Weed Care study within the Swiss pilot projects will be able to purchase cannabis in pharmacies in Basel. A straightforward but reliable tracking system is required for the transparent execution of this project and all future ones. The Swiss company Vigia AG has developed the Cannabis Dispensary System in partnership with the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) in order to reliably document the dispensing of the products. This makes it possible to track the cannabis goods transparently and gives the foundation for scientific research.
For Vigia AG, the pilot projects are an important step for the cannabis industry, as Philipp Hagenbach, COO of Vigia AG, explains: "We are in an emerging industry where various paths to legalization are currently being discussed. With a structured legalization process, maximum conformity, and transparency, Switzerland is setting an example. With our existing Cannavigia software and the Cannabis Dispensary System, we provide the various stakeholders involved with the necessary tools to track and document every step along the supply chain. We are proud to be part of the Swiss pilot projects and this historic milestone".
Transparency and traceability
Vigia AG is the FOPH's official track & trace partner for the pilot trials. This kind of partnership between the government and a commercial business in the cannabis industry is unique to the sector. Vigia AG has added a Cannabis Dispensary System (CDS) to its existing Cannavigia software solution. Thanks to the combination of the two, the companies cultivating cannabis for the projects can monitor their cultivation and supply chain, which serves to ensure the quality of the final products. Those in charge of the projects can use the software to register the study participants, with those responsible for the Weed Care study starting this as early as September 2022. It allows the dispensaries to keep track of sales as well as individual quantities dispensed to participants, guaranteeing that only authorized persons can purchase the products. This ensures consumer and especially minor protection and results in a transparent and traceable supply chain that can also be maintained in a future legalized environment. The Cannabis Dispensary System provides the FOPH with an overview of the circulation of cannabis in Switzerland and supports the reporting obligation to the UN's International Narcotics Control Board. The data of the participants are always stored pseudonymously in order to ensure data protection.
Building trust for the cannabis industry
Due to the Narcotics Act and the regulation of the pilot trials, maximum compliance and transparency are expected at all levels along the value chain. For Vigia AG, transparency and compliance go beyond effective regulations and certification if possible. This is also to be applied to the pilot projects: The use of the software gives market participants the greatest possible certainty that they will meet the FOPH's future quality and information requirements. In this way, Cannavigia and the other organizations involved in the pilot projects are helping to create trust for the future legalization of cannabis and to paint a realistic picture of what possible legalization could look like in the future.
Switzerland as an example of a structured legalization process
A few countries, such as Uruguay, Canada, or Thailand, have already decriminalized or legalized cannabis consumption for recreational use. However, these countries are partly struggling with overproduction and with still dominating black markets. In addition, companies in these countries continue to face bureaucratic problems such as access to banks or insurance companies. With the cannabis pilot trials, Switzerland can become an example of a structured legalization process. A possible legalization is tested in a real environment so that problems can be identified early on and minimized or even eliminated. In addition, it can be jointly determined where the degree between over- and under-regulation lies.
The pilot projects have already shown that the interaction of the private and public sectors is essential to advance the national legalization of cannabis. Other countries can learn and benefit from this.
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