Cannabis cigarettes are being sold legally at this supermarket chain
Marijuana plants (Photo: Ethan Miller, Getty Images)
GENEVA — Natalia Ferrera is in high spirits — literally. Standing in front of a Coop supermarket in the city’s Eaux-Vives section, she is smoking a cigarette and enjoying a buzz.
Ferrera’s cigarette has a distinctly musky scent because in addition to tobacco, it contains hemp and cannabidiol (CBD), one of the active ingredients in the cannabis plant that is the source of marijuana. And this may be the only place in the world where you can get it at a supermarket.
“It tastes like a real joint,” Ferrera, 20, said, adding that she wanted to try the cigarette “out of curiosity.”
She purchased a pack, marketed under the name Heimat, legally at Coop, one of Switzerland’s largest supermarket chains. It will launch the product in 700 stores nationwide on July 24. But some branches, like the one in Eaux-Vives, are already selling it.
While several U.S. producers in states with legalized marijuana offer pre-rolled cannabis joints, they are sold in specialized outlets. Heimat, on the other hand, is the “first and only cigarette containing cannabis that is sold in a regular supermarket,” according to its Swiss manufacturers, Koch & Gsell.
In Switzerland, cannabis can contain up to 1% of THC, which is higher than the 0.2% legal limit in many other nations.
The manufacturer warns on its website that “the cigarettes should not be taken abroad, as this may result in prosecution due to the differences in the permissible THC limits in other countries.”
But since the new cigarettes contain a relatively low level of THC — 4 grams in a pack of 20 — smokers should not expect to get high, the manufacturer said.
That is not the effect Ferrera described. “I definitely felt more mellow and relaxed,” she reported.
While the THC may be low, the cigarette contains a high, 20% level of CBD, a substance believed to relieve pain, inflammation, and offer other health benefits.
Coop is selling these cigarettes “because there is big demand for hemp products,” company spokeswoman Angela Wimmer told USA TODAY.
She added that the chain already carries other cannabis products like ice tea, beer and sandwich spread.
Only people over 18 will be able to buy Heimat cigarettes, and there will be identity checks at cash registers. A pack costs $20.
“This cigarette is more expensive because cannabis costs a lot more than tobacco,” said Bjoern Koch, the company’s marketing director. “From this perspective, our cigarettes are sold at a low price.”
Nevada dispensaries running out of marijuana
One of Switzerland’s largest supermarket chains will launch cigarettes containing hemp and cannabidiol in 700 stores nationwide on July 24.
Here’s How Much a Pack of Marijuana Joints Could Eventually Cost
How much would a marijuana cigarette cost? Since legalization in Washington and Colorado, an old jokeВ вЂ” Marlboro GreensВ вЂ” has been making the rounds again, starting with an article in the satirical publicationВ Abril UnoВ that claimed Phillip Morris will be introducing Marlboro Marijuana smokes.
The smokes aren’t real, but it has people thinking about what the final retail price of such a product would be.В According to Fast Company, it would cost Phillip Morris somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 on the low end to make a pack of pure-marijuana cigarettes, while mixed marijuana-tobacco cigarettes might be as cheap as $20. A production cost of $40 means thatВ a pack of the good stuff could cost the consumer up to $70-80 at retail. Premium marijuana could run up to $120, while you could grab a pack of 50-50 marijuana-tobacco cigarettes for about $40.
Wait a second . В ButВ Forbes’ Tim Worstall points out that there’s a big hole inВ Fast Company’s analysis: they “model the tax take and likely retail prices given the current producers’ prices” вЂ” i.e., what it currently costs marijuana producers in the U.S. to grow and prepare a gram of weed.В “They’re not, in any manner, trying to model or calculate producers’ prices themselves: they’re simply an assumption going into their model.” That’s a big flaw, because the marijuana industry is “highly fragmented, very inefficient and it is both of these things because it is still illegal.”
If Big Tobacco decided to dive into the weed business, the very first thing they’d do is investigate how they can bring production costs down using the same techniques they used to make machine-rolled cigarettes so cheap. In Malawi, for example, growing a kilogram of weed costs just $3. And packaging and distribution costs would be somewhat similar to regular cigarette prices, resulting in a much different estimate of a production cost of 50 cents per pack. Worstall also predicts that after liberalization of the marijuana market, the price crash will be followed by tax changes and calls for protectionism in favor of U.S. producers. All told, marijuana cigarettes could be much cheaper than Fast Company’s analysis would imply.
Will this actually happen?В That said, Big Tobacco has no plans to get involved in the marijuana business anytime soon, seeing as weed remains very illegal on a federal level. And even if that particular barrier is breached, retailers will have to jump on board selling a very controversial product which might have 50 very different regulatory regimes for each state. Meanwhile, smokers might be suspicious of Big Tobacco-produced marijuana products when buying high-quality weed at a local dispensary is a good option, and options like e-cigarettes and vaporizersВ could prove to be more popular. There’s definitely a market for such a product, but if it happens at all, it’ll be decades from now.
How much would a marijuana cigarette cost? Since legalization in Washington and Colorado, an old jokeВ вЂ” Marlboro GreensВ вЂ” has been making the rounds again, starting with an article in the satirical publicationВ Abril UnoВ that claimed Phillip MorrisвЂ¦