Shops selling cannabidiol (CBD) products have opened across the country in recent months - including Paris stores E-Klop and Cofyshop - and usually stock items such as CBD crystals, syrup, sweets, oils, balms and ground herb.
They do not position themselves as health shops, pharmacies, or “dealers”.
CBD is technically legal, as it contains a maximum of 0.2% of THC, the psychoactive element present in stronger cannabis variations. This means it does not make its users “high”.
Yet, many shops that have opened this year - in a bid to capitalise on the growing popularity of CBD - have reportedly been forced to close.
The owners allege that running the shops has become too risky, with local prosecutors reportedly questioning the stores’ legality, and debating whether the operations in fact constitute “illegal pharmacy” work.
The issue is especially fraught in the Nord, shop owners have said.
Stores closed recently include Bestown Shop, which opened in May in Annœullin and Béthune; Kanaleg in Calais; and Best CBD and 1001 Vertues, both in Douai.
All have now ceased trading and closed their doors. The Cambrai branch of 1001 Vertues may also close in early 2019, its owner has said.
A co-manager of now-closed store Kanaleg said: “What made me close? It was a letter from the ministry of Justice saying that they would be investigating and prosecuting, notably for ‘practising illegal pharmacy work’.”
The owner of another now-closed shop, Greenbeux in Lille, was investigated recently. He even spent time in police custody.
The legal status of CBD remains ambiguous and in flux.
In mid-June this year, a government statement said that “the commerce of all cannabis flowers is prohibited in France”, but in November, Minister for Health Agnès Buzyn said that selling CBD products for public consumptions was authorised.
Mickael Tabeling, a CBD shop owner in Dunkirk, disagrees that these shops are breaking the law, and is resisting pressure to close his own premises. He maintains that his products are 100% legal.
He said: “We are feeling pressure at the moment; we were visited [by officials]. But I have taken on a specialist legal advisor on this.”
Mr Tabeling now plans to open further sites in Bergues, Hazebrouck and Béthune.
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