As the legal cannabis market continues to boom in Switzerland, supermarket giant Coop will soon be stocking the first ever ‘cannabis cigarettes,’ made by a local tobacco producer.
From the middle of this month, the newspaper 20 Minutes reports, hemp cigarettes produced by trendy Swiss-based tobacco manufacturer Heimatexternal link will be available in Coop supermarkets country-wide.
Each pack, which Heimat describe as “the world’s first CBD hemp cigarette,” will contain four grams of natural hemp mixed in with their natural Swiss tobacco, and will be available to those over the age of 18.
And though the cigarettes – along with a range of other CBD, or Cannabidiolexternal link products low in the psychoactive substance THC – are already available in many smaller shops and kiosks, the decision of one of Switzerland’s big two supermarket chains to stock the product takes it to a new level.
But Coop spokesman Urs Meier told 20 Minutes that it wasn’t such a strange move. “We already sell products with traces of hemp, like tea, beer, oil, and spreads,” he said.
Health and addiction experts are less enthusiastic about the normalisation of a product whose effects remain relatively unknown.
According to Addiction Suisse, a foundation battling problems of addictive substances, “caution remains the watchword.” The consumption of CBD is “less damaging” than consuming weed which is higher in THC, it admits, but the long-term effects are hazy.
It points out that it is particularly important to avoid CBD ingestion during pregnancy, because the protective function of the placenta can be modified.
And while the Federal Office for Health recognizes the potentially useful therapeutic effects of the “drug” – antioxidizing, anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsive – it also points out that “its medicinal effect is for now not clearly ascertained by research.”
The caution is reflected on the Heimat cigarette packs, which issue a warning to smokers not to drive after inhaling the cigarettes, since it is difficult to know at which point they may reach the legal limit of 1.5 mg of THC per litre of blood.
The industry around legal weed is in vogue in Switzerland right now. Since the authorities decriminalized in 2011 products containing less than 1 percent THC, start-ups and CBD growers have flourished.
So far, 130 retailers of legal cannabis have registered with the Federal Customs Administration, to be taxed as tobacco producers, under current regulations.
Outlets sell products online and in retail stores; some reports suggest that the market has burgeoned into a CHF100 million ($104,000) annual industry, which may also provide a boon for Swiss state coffers.
However, when it comes to Heimat hemp cigarettes, it may not be the health hazards that put people off, but the price: a packet retails at CHF19.90, double that of a normal score of cigarettes.