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 said.
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.”