“things are changing” in France on the use of CBD
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After the European Court of Justice banned the marketing in France of cannabidiol (CBD), the legal molecule of cannabis, it is the turn of the Court of Cassation to rule on its legality since February 16. While waiting for its shutdown in March, legal cannabis shops are multiplying at breakneck speed in the country.
France cultivates both hemp and paradoxes. First hemp producer in Europe, France is also the strictest European country on its use. Perhaps the least clear also on the legal level. “But things are changing in this area”, assures Aurélien Delecroix, president of the Hemp Trade Union (SPC)in an interview with France 24.
Tuesday, February 16, the Court of Cassation was seized to decide on the marketing of cannabidiol (CBD) in France. For only a few years, more and more hemp shops have been springing up in the territory. Specialized in well-being, these stalls of a new kind offer CBD-based products for sale. This substance derived from hemp has no psychotropic effect and does not cause addiction. The molecule provides relaxing effects distinct from those of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychotropic molecule with euphoric and addictive effects found in illegal cannabis.
Problem: to date, French legislation does not authorize the marketing of CBD. Farmers have the right to grow hemp on their land, but do not have the right to sell either the flowers or the leaves of the plant which contain the famous molecule. Under Narcotics Order 1990French legislation only authorizes the cultivation and marketing of the fibers and seeds of the plant, if their THC content is less than 0.2%.
It is forbidden to prohibit, according to Brussels
To continue their activities, these shops align themselves with European law. European justice was indeed seized in 2018 by the Aix-en-Provence Court of Appeal, after two Marseille promoters of “Kanavape”, an electronic hemp cigarette, were sentenced to 18 and 15 months of suspended prison sentence. Its designers, who claim that their electronic CBD cigarette launched in 2014 is “100% legal”, because it respects the maximum authorized rate of 0.2% of THC, have thus seized the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU ).
On November 19, 2020, the CJEU, less restrictive in this area, ruled the ban on CBD decreed in France illegal, unlike other countries on the continent, in the name of the free movement of goods. It also considered that it had no psychotropic or harmful effect on health, and that it could not be considered a narcotic or a medicine.
Since then, CBD product shops, encouraged by European legislation, have been sprouting up like mushrooms on French soil. According to the SPC, the country has nearly 400, almost four times more than before the summer of 2018 and the wave of closures ordered by the authorities. On their shelves, there are CBD-based products in sublingual oils, teas, coffee, herbal teas, sweets, cosmetics, food supplements, e-cigarettes or even flowers, to smoke or infuse. .
A growth market
Its followers find in these new stalls products that allow them to relieve all kinds of ailments: soothe menstrual pain, calm insomnia or simply to relax. Far from the coffee shops that can be found in particular in Amsterdam, these bright and welcoming shops want to be more reassuring to attract new customers.
The market now weighs 150 to 200 million euros and could reach one billion euros by 2023 if the legal uncertainty surrounding it is lifted, it is estimated on the side of the union. “The decision of the Court of Cassation will be decisive for the development of activity because the current legislation is slowing down the market”, explains Aurélien Delecroix.
While waiting for his judgment, which must be made in March, the association manager is confident. “The last three cases that were judged on appeal concerning the trade in CBD products did not result in convictions, continues the association manager. The three defendants were released, their seized equipment was returned to them. Recently, French justice can hardly go against European law. So I am not worried about the decision of the Court of Cassation.”
Towards a new regulation
On the political level, some elected officials are also trying to move the lines. A citizen consultation launched on the initiative of deputies is open online – from January 13 to February 28 – to bring political leaders to re-examine the French approach, which is now out of step with that of many European countries. The consultation has two objectives: to better understand the perception that the French have of cannabis and to know their vision of the future of public policies on this subject.
In parallel, the Mildeca missionplaced under the supervision of the Prime Minister, is also trying to agree on new regulations in coordination with many ministries involved such as Health, Agriculture, the Interior, Justice and the Economy.
Faced with the reluctance that remains, the entire hemp industry aims above all to be responsible and reassuring for consumers. “We are not pharmacists, CBD is not a drug. Nor dealers, CBD is not a drug. It is up to us to ensure that the entire hemp industry adopts good practices to prove that our activity is without risk.”