Cannabis remains by far the most widely consumed drug in Switzerland, even though the market value is much lower than that of cocaine, the researchers found.

A study published Thursday by several groups, including Addiction Switzerland, estimates the value of the national cannabis market at 500 million Swiss francs ($516 million).

But in the canton of Vaud, where the study was carried out, the figures show that the total value of the market was about half that of cocaine – a result which, according to Frank Zobel, co-director of Addiction Switzerland, came as a surprise.

“We thought cannabis was the biggest market in every sense of the word,” he told the Keystone news agency. “However, the turnover is lower than that of cocaine, even if it is still much higher than that of other drugs”.

That said, the total volume of cannabis sold in Switzerland exceeds that of all other drugs: it is estimated that between 40 and 60 tonnes are smoked each year throughout the country. In the canton of Vaud alone, with a population of 800,000, the equivalent of about 50,000 cannabis joints are consumed every day.

Kicking it again

As far as the products on offer are concerned, researchers point to a diverse and changing landscape where “you can find everything”, as Zobel says.

Imported hashish is making a comeback after decades of the popularity of locally grown marijuana leaves. The hashish available in Switzerland comes almost exclusively from Morocco, the report notes, and generally contains high levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the main psychoactive constituent of cannabis that gives the sensation of high).

Other new products on the Swiss market include a cocktail of illegal cannabis (with high levels of THC) mixed with legal cannabidiol (CBD), a development that Zobel says is due to increasingly lower prices on the legal market.

CBD can be extracted from hemp or marijuana and is sold in the form of gels, oils, extracts, gums and the like, but does not cause the same kind of “high” like THC.

As for the consumers themselves, the researchers found that heavy users are the market drivers: half of the consumption is by “regular” smokers (20 or more days per month), who account for 9% of all consumers.

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