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Sale of CBD flowers in France: Court temporarily overturns latest ban

Le Conseil d’Etat called the government’s controversial ban on the sale of CBD flowers and leaves ‘disproportionate’

A display of CBD products including leaves, oil, cream, and tablets

In the latest decision in the long-running saga in France, le Conseil d’Etat has overturned a government ban from December 2021 Pic: Bukhta Yurii / Shutterstock

A ban on the sale of CBD flowers and leaves in France has been temporarily overturned, less than a month after it was introduced by the government.

On December 31, 2021, a government decree banned the sale of CBD flowers and leaves, either to smoke or to drink in tea.

Read more: France's green party calls new CBD ban 'absurd gift to drug dealers' 

The December government decree stated that only the growing, importation, exportation and industrial and commercial use of Cannabis sativa L. varieties was allowed. Products that did not contain whole leaves or flowers to smoke or drink were still allowed.

Ban considered ‘disproportionate’

Now, France's highest court, the Conseil d’Etat, has suspended the ban.

In a statement, it said: “The interim judge of le Conseil d’Etat considers that there is a serious doubt as to the legality of this general and absolute ban because of its disproportionate nature.”

CBD is derived from cannabis but contains none of the psychoactive compounds, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), found in “normal” cannabis, that would make users “high”.

Instead, users say it helps with conditions such as anxiety, depression, chronic pain and even seizures, plus a host of other claimed benefits. Some also use CBD as a replacement for tobacco.

THC levels

The Conseil d’Etat decision also centred on the concentration of THC in CBD products, which must be less than 0.3%.

The judge said that “this threshold is…devoid of narcotic properties [and] is the one used…to authorise the cultivation, import, export and industrial and commercial use of certain varieties of cannabis". 

The Conseil took issue with the fact that the government decree had banned the sale of flowers and leaves ”even though the THC content of these flowers and leaves is below the 0.3% threshold".

It said that the suspension of the ban was only temporary, pending further examination of the controversial decree.

In early January, the government ban sparked sharp criticism from the green party in France (Europe Écologie les Verts, EELV), with representatives including presidential candidate Yannick Jadot calling it “ignorant”, “the worst kind of nonsense”, and an “absurd New Year gift to drug dealers”.

Minister reaction: ‘Bad for health’

Interior minister Gérald Darmanin has said that he “regrets” this new court decision, saying that allowing the sale of CBD products went against the government’s aim to reduce drug use.

He told France Inter: “We did not raise the price of cigarettes to €10 [per pack] just so we could accept the legalisation and decriminalisation of cannabis.”

He continued: "In general, all substances that are related to cannabis, to drugs, are very bad for health.”

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France’s long-running CBD saga

It is the latest decision in France on CBD, which has been contested – with regularly changing laws and rules – for years.

The December decree itself came just over a year after the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that France could not ban the sale of CBD that had been legally produced in another European member state. 

The ECJ also found that CBD was not a narcotic, and has neither a “psychotropic effect nor negative effect on human health”.

Read more: European court: French ban on CBD products illegal 

CBD was temporarily banned in France in 2018, before being legalised again later. 

Since then, more and more shops, including in major towns such as Paris, Bordeaux, Marseille, Lyon and Nice, now have CBD products on their shelves. There were fears that these shops would lose stock and money due to the government’s December ban.

The ECJ became involved in France again after the Court of Appeal in Aix-en-Provence asked it to intervene in a case against two Marseille entrepreneurs who had been accused of illegally selling a CBD-based e-cigarette under the brand Kanavape.

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