CBD flowers are again legal to sell in France after le Conseil d’Etat (the highest administrative court) lifted the previous ban, in a new decision that proponents say has “saved an entire industry”.
On December 29 this year, the court definitively dismissed the government’s decree from December 2021, which had banned the sale and consumption of flowers containing cannabidiol (CBD).
CBD is the non-psychotropic molecule of the cannabis plant.
Psychotropic cannabis contains the banned substance tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Only THC makes people ‘high’, while CBD is claimed to help people relax and reduce anxiety, with no ‘high’. CBD products must have less than 0.3% THC content.
After the December 2021 ban, the court was asked to weigh in on the issue urgently by professionals in the CBD sector. At the time, the court ‘temporarily’ suspended the ban. Now, 11 months later, it has upheld the suspension, making the sale legal once again. Its decision will likely be final.
The government argued for a ban, saying that allowing the flowers would make searching for genuine cannabis more difficult for law enforcement officers. This is because CBD flowers have a similar appearance and smell to their psychotropic counterparts.
But the court disagreed with the government’s argument.
It said: “It has not been established that the consumption of flowers and leaves of this variety of cannabis causes a risk to public health.”
It said that legal and illegal cannabis could be easily differentiated by police “through fast and cheap tests that enable the identification of varieties that cause a high”.
‘An entire industry has been saved’
CBD industry professionals have welcomed the ruling. There are around 2,000 specialist shops that sell CBD products in France.
Charles Morel, president of the Union des professionnels du CBD, told FranceInfo that “the sale of [CBD] flowers generally accounts for three-quarters of business”.
He said: “With this decision, an entire industry has been saved. We did not understand why it had been targeted by a totally incoherent prohibitionist policy, which is far from the reality, and which aimed to attack a product that does not make you high. This is confirmation of the rule of law.”
With its final decision, the court has also put an end to a debate and legal uncertainty that has been ongoing since 2014. This had seen some professionals targeted in court, including the French founders of the CBD vape Kanavape, who maintained that their product was legal.
Mr Morel has said that the industry is now waiting for extra regulations from the government, and urged it to stop seeing producers and sellers as “the enemy”.
Instead, it should see them as “an industry of excellence for producers and consumers”. He said that the government’s stance was “an electoral debate [designed to seduce] a conservative electorate”.
It comes after the European Court of Justice (ECJ), and the Cassation court in France, had already confirmed that CBD could not be considered an intoxicant, and had “no psychotropic nor negative effect on human health”. The ECJ ruled in 2020 that France’s ban on CBD products was illegal.