Two establishments have begun selling the product in recent weeks, with one in Puteaux (western Paris, Hauts-de-Seine) and one in the 11th arrondissement.
Named E-Klop and Cofyshop respectively, each sells legal cannabis - known as CBD - in several formats, including crystals, syrup, sweets, oil, vaping liquid, balm, and ground herb.
CBD is a molecule derived from the cannabis plant, which offers similar effects to normal cannabis, but without the psychoactivity.
It has a maximum of 0.2% of THC (the psychoactive element in cannabis).
This means it is technically legal, with the Minister for Health announcing in November that the presence of CBD in products for public consumption was authorised.
The shops in Paris are the latest to open in France, with similar establishments having already begun trading in Besançon, and Annoeullin (near Lille).
Joaquim Lousquy, owner of Cofyshop, does not call himself a doctor or a dealer.
He said: “It is not a medicine or a relaxant. We are not doctors. I would not advise anyone to smoke cannabis. Here, we sell it like a common product, in the same way as a furniture shop might sell a table or a chair.”
The product sold in Cofyshop comes from Switzerland, and a label on the jars reads “do not smoke”.
Stéphane Bélaiche, owner of the E-Klop shop in Puteaux, has a similar message.
He said: “I do not sell CBD products so they can be smoked in a joint, but so that people can find another flavour that they enjoy.”
E-Klop has been open for five years, but has only just started selling CBD products in recent days. It sells for around €20-25 per gram of legal product, and is aimed at “managers, executives, and professionals”.
Proponents of CBD use say that it helps with anxiety and pain, but the issue is still the subject of intense debate.
Health authority La Direction Générale de la Santé (DGS) has said that “no therapeutic advantage may be claimed by the makers or sellers of any product containing CBD”.
The authority added that some advertisements for CBD appear to confuse cannabis and CBD, and as such “appear to be advertising cannabis” illegally.
Dan Velea, psychologist of addictive substances, working in the 6th arrondissement, spoke to news source 20 Minutes about the spread of CBD, and called it “problematic”.
He said: “There are not enough studies [on this]...there is a risk that users [of CBD] may return to using cannabis containing THC, and that CBD will act as a ‘gateway’ product for new users.”
CBD is gaining ground around the world, for its supposedly relaxing effects, without the addictiveness or psychoactive properties of usual THC-containing cannabis.
The use and decriminalisation of CBD products is spreading across Europe, the UK, the USA and beyond, with differing levels of enforcement and legal status for the use of non-psychoactive cannabis, CBD, hemp (cannabis with very low levels of THC), and recreational versus medical use of normal cannabis.
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