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CBD ban: French court decision could impact CBD industry in Europe

The French ban on hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) is contrary to European law according to Advocate General Tanchev, which may have a big impact on the CBD industry in Europe.

Yesterday, Advocate General Tanchev presented his opinion before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) declaring the French ban on hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) contrary to EU law, which could have major implications for the CBD industry in Europe if the Court follows the Advocate General’s opinion.

Currently, Antonin Cohen, former manager of Kanavape, is being prosecuted in France for selling vaping products manufactured with natural CBD. The French regulatory framework currently prohibits the marketing of products derived from the whole plant, and thus of all products containing CBD, whereas the use of synthetic CBD (chemically identical) is generally permitted.

In his opinion, the Advocate General concludes that: “[EU law] preclude[s] a Member State from prohibiting the importation of cannabidiol oil from another Member State, where that oil is extracted from the whole hemp plant, and not solely from its fibre and seeds, since, in the current state of scientific knowledge, it has not been established that cannabidiol oil has psychotropic effects.”

The Advocate General further advocated for a proportionate regulation of CBD products in Europe which is less restrictive on the free movement of goods (for example through the establishment of a maximum CBD content).

Impact on the European CBD market

Allen & Overy is representing Cohen in the proceedings for a preliminary ruling before the CJEU (Case C-663/18).

Eveline Van Keymeulen, Head of Allen & Overy’s Life Sciences Regulatory and Cannabis practices, who is assisting Cohen in the proceedings, said: “Should the Court follow the Advocate General’s opinion, its decision will have a significant impact on the CBD industry in Europe, which is losing market share compared to other regions such as the US and Canada, because of the fragmented and inapt legal framework.

“As the Court’s decision would set a binding precedent with European reach, it would not only require France to adapt its legislation in order to allow the marketing of CBD extracted from the entire hemp plant, but may also force other national regulators to (re)examine existing restrictions related to hemp-derived products in light of the free movement of goods in the EU.

“The Advocate General’s opinion is therefore a crucial step towards much needed regulatory harmonisation and legal certainty for the CBD industry in Europe. In addition, a clear and proportionate regulation of CBD-based products will ultimately benefit EU consumers.”

The opinion of the Advocate General is available in English (here) and in French (here).

The Court’s decision is expected to be rendered from September 2020 onwards. In the vast majority of cases, the Court follows the opinion of the Advocate General.

Lack of clarity

Antonin Cohen, co-director of Kanavape, said: “When we launched our product in 2014, CBD was unknown. Our goal has always been to market a useful and legal product, and we conducted a legal analysis to validate the compliance of CBD. The duration of these proceedings – more than five years – and the referral to the CJEU demonstrates the lack of clarity in the current regulations, and the need to provide a clear framework for the production and use of CBD in France and Europe.

“From a personal point of view, this opinion is a real relief. It is very difficult to combat these legal challenges for so long but I have pursued this approach because it is vital to create clear regulations to protect the health of consumers and to support the competitiveness of French and European companies in a global industry that is growing very fast.”

The French ban on hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) is contrary to European law according to Advocate General Tanchev, which may have a big impact on the CBD industry in Europe.

Is CBD Oil legal in France?

Status: Legal

It is important to know exactly what is and what is not legal in regards to Cannabis and Cannabis products in France. Lets answer some basic questions.

This article is also available in French: Le CBD est-il légal en France?

The legal status of Cannabis and Cannabis related products differ greatly between different countries, even ones part of the European Union. France, although having a very liberal and open stance on Cannabis use, both recreationally and medically does not necessarily have the same legal viewpoint on the matter.

It is important to know exactly what is and what is not legal in regards to Cannabis and Cannabis products in France. Lets answer some basic questions.

CBD’s Legal Status in France

Is it legal to buy CBD in France online Yes

While France does allow for CBD oil (french: Huile de CBD) to be sold, there are strict rules as to what claims vendors can make about the product. Sellers can not make medical claims, and must state that CBD oil is not for consumption, although there is no legal ramification for consuming it. The CBD oils must contain less than 0.2% THC to be sold legally.

Is it legal to buy CBD in France offline Yes

CBD oil can be found in many health and natural medicine stores throughout France and is often advertised as a CBD tincture. As with buying online, vendors are prohibited from making claims about any potential medical benefits that CBD oil consumption may have.

Several stores have been closed down in recent years for advertising claims that the French government believes to be unsubstantiated.

As with online purchase of CBD oil, the oil must contain less than 0.2% THC to be considered legal.

Is it legal to grow hemp for CBD in France? Yes

Interestingly enough, France is the only wetern nation to have never banned Hemp cultivation and thus the practice is entirely legal. While most Hemp cultivated is used, oddly enough, to make high quality paper for bibles as well as rolling papers, hemp cultivation for purposes of personal CBD oil production has risen in popularity as more people begin to experiment with the medicinal properties of CBD oil.

Is it legal in France to buy products containing above 0.2% of THC for medical use Yes

Cannabis products containing 0.2% THC and higher is illegal in France, this includes recreational Cannabis. Although France has made efforts to decriminalize and legalize Cannabis for recreational purposes, possession is still punishable with a 200 euro fine.

That being said, Cannabis products containing more than 0.2% THC for medical use is highly regulated but on the rise in France. This began in 2013, when certain Cannabis derived products were cleared for medical use.

Is it legal in France buy products containing above 0.2% of THC for recreational use No

Cannabis products containing more than 0.2% THC is illegal in France, with a 200 euro fine given to anyone caught with the substance.

Conclusion

Although recreational Cannabis is illegal to buy and posses in France, CBD oil is legal and readily available, as long as the vendor refrains from making any claims about the medical benefits of CBD oil and as long as the THC content is less than 0.2%

Those looking to purchase CBD oil France should have no issues as it is commonly sold in health food and alternative medicine stores around the country but usually the highest quality products with 3rd party lab test results you can find online. If you are living or travelling to France you can place an order in Eir Health French CBD Store or General EU CBD Store. Delivery is free for every order over €80 and you can find 3rd party lab results for every product on the product page.


Although recreational Cannabis is illegal to buy and posses in France, CBD oil is legal and readily available, as long as the vendor refrains from making any claims about the medical benefits of CBD oil and as long as the THC content is less than 0.2%