Switzerland changed its laws in 2011 to let adults buy and use cannabis with up to 1 percent THC, the chemical compound that produces a high. But its money-making potential seems only to have been discovered late last year, officials said.
The number of retailers registered to sell low-THC cannabis has risen to 140 from just a handful last year, the agency says.
It expects revenue of around $US25 million on legal sales of $US100 million from cannabis in 2017, although the spokesman said the figure could be far higher if the boom continues.
KannaSwiss, a wholesaler that supplies shops with organically-grown low-THC cannabis to smoke or take orally, has quadrupled its staff to 20 since last year, but boss Corso Serra di Cassano says the company still can’t keep up with orders.
The company was founded by two scions of aristocratic families: di Cassano, whose lineage includes an Italian prince beheaded in 1799, and Boris Blatnik, whose sister married into the deposed royal family of Greece. They compare the high from low-potency pot to drinking a couple glasses of wine.
Switzerland’s experimentation with low-THC cannabis comes as several US states have decriminalized or legalized pot.
Europe has a patchwork of laws. The Netherlands is known for coffee shops where the authorities allow sales of small quantities of marijuana. In January, Germany’s lower house of parliament passed a law legalizing medical cannabis.
Several countries have explored changing the rules to reduce penalties for possession of marijuana or permit strains low in THC. But the Swiss were among the first to make recreational low-potency pot fully legal and tax it.