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European Commission Under Increasing Pressure To Scrap Its Classification Of CBD As A Narcotic Drug Following Court Ruling


THE European Court of Justice has handed the continent’s hemp and CBD industry a major boost – now the pressure is mounting for its politicians and bureaucrats to do the same.

The ECJ’s ruling on the KanaVape case – issued yesterday – is quite clear in how it views CBD, and that is definitely not as a narcotic drug.


This should clear the path towards the creation of regulated and thriving European hemp and CBD industry.

However, concerns have been raised the European Commission (EC) may look to defer adopting this position.

The KanaVape Ruling

While the KanaVape ruling is strictly connected to the freedom of movement of goods between member states the underlying, and crucial issue, is in relation to the status of CBD in Europe.

In January 2019, the EC opted to classify CBD as a Novel Food, but changed its mind with a new preliminary ruling in July this year deeming it a narcotic drug.

The five judges in the ECJ seem to have little time for this opinion which emanates from a rigid interpretation of cannabis extracts as medical products, defined under International Drug Conventions

The ECJ judges said: “Such an interpretation would be contrary to the general spirit of that convention and to its objective of protecting the health and welfare of mankind.”

And continues: “Unlike THC … the CBD at issue does not appear to have any psychotropic effect of harmful effect on human health.”

In passing this ruling it challenges the French authorities to prove otherwise. This is unlikely to happen as the ECJ’s rulings have primacy over national law.

Attention Turns To The EC

The attention now tuns to the EC to see if it will shift from its narcotic position on the status of CBD.

Matt Lawson of the Canna Consultants.

In an analysis of the judgement Steve Oliver and Matt Lawson of The Canna Consultants (TCC) say: “We are firmly of the view that this Judgement removes the legal objection to the progress of CBD products in Europe and inevitably increases the pressure on the European Commission to remove the present ban on the advancement of the Novel Food assessments of naturally-derived CBD products.”

TCC draw attention to some potential wriggle room for the EC in the shape of the meeting The United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) on December 2, which will consider the status of cannabis in international drug treaties. 

They continue: “However, the lineage between legal judgement and political action is not necessarily always straight or swift and one can see circumstances in which the brakes are not immediately removed. 

“We understand that, without further pressure being brought, the European Commission may delay any taclking of this issue further until the outcome of the UN vote on the ‘Cannabis Resolutions’ is known in December 2020.”

This meeting has already been postponed once – from March this year – and there is still some uncertainty over whether it will go-ahead.

Industrial Or Medical Hemp?

Kenzi Riboulet-Zemouli, a respected independent researcher, who closely monitors the status of cannabis in international drug treaties welcomed the ruling saying it highlights the fallacy of any attempt by the EC to defer to act.

He told BusinessCann: “From the perspective of international law, this judgment is extremely useful since it echoes and complements the position that USA has adopted in the United Nations, in interpreting the exemption for hemp to be articulated around the ‘industrial purposes’ and not merely around defined botanical parts – fibres and seeds. 

“So this is excellent news, showing a future where the EU and the US articulate their hemp policies as clearly non-medical, non-intoxicating cannabis products, not subject to narcotic drugs laws for their purposes of use instead of their mere origin – botanical – or method of obtention.”

He then goes on the eviscerate any attempts by the EC to defer to the UN CND, by elaborating on the crucial difference between medical and industrial hemp (cannabis).

“On another level, it is important to repeat that this court ruling is in no way related to the upcoming vote on a recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO) to exempt plant-derived CBD medications from international control.

“The WHO recommendation does not concern CBD e-cigarettes and any CBD product not considered to be medicinal products. WHO’s mandate is strictly limited to ‘medical and scientific purposes’, whereas the ECJ’s ruling is strictly limited to ‘industrial purposes’ – as defined by 1961 Convention as ‘any purpose other than medical and scientific’.

“This court ruling is a good news for industrial hemp. We’re still pending news on medicinal hemp on December 2 – although we’ve known for two years the CBD recommendation will likely not be adopted, it will not change anything.

Epidiolex will continue to be regulated under narcotic drugs laws, the only change of adopting WHO CBD’s recommendation would have concerned Epidiolex and other similar medicines like CannEpil. Not industrial products.”

A Fair And Consistent Legal Framework

Yesterday’s decision has been given an overwhelmingly positive response by those working daily in the cannabis space.

Lorenza Romanese, Managing Director of the European Industrial Hemp Association.

Lorenza Romanese, Managing Director of the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA), says it expects to see the EC reverse its position on the status of CBD.

She said: “EIHA welcomes the positive ruling of the ECJ as, at this stage, what the European hemp sector needs the most is a fair and coherent legal framework, once and for all.

“We truly hope that the position of the Court of Justice will set an example, and that the European Commission will review its preliminary conclusion on the status of natural CBD accordingly.”

The Managing Director of the German Cannabis Industry Association (BvCW), Jürgen Neumeyer, said: “The cannabis industry welcomes the judgment of the European Court of Justice which states, among other things, that cannabidiol is not an ‘addictive substance’. 

“With the judgment of the ECJ, a regulated CBD market in Germany and Europe becomes more tangible. 

“The ECJ thus follows the opinion of the World Health Organization, which has repeatedly emphasized that CBD does not meet the criteria of a drug within the meaning of the international narcotics conventions. 

“This should make the so-called ‘preliminary assessment’ of the EU Commission, regarding CBD as a narcotic, obsolete.”

The UK Association for The Cannabinoid Industry (ACI) welcomed the decision saying it should help establish a clearer route to compliance for CBD companies across the EU, saying ‘the harmonisation of cannabinoid regulations could finally become a reality’.

Dr Parveen Bhatarah, ACI Regulatory and Compliance Lead, added: “This is great news for the industry. We look forward to hearing the EC’s decision and being in a position to help our members grow their businesses across Europe.”

BusinessCann has asked the European Commission what its position is now in relation to the reassessing the 50-plus outstanding Novel Food applications, suspended due to the narcotic ruling; we are awaiting a response.

A reversal of the EC’s narcotic CBD stance will deliver a major boost to the rapidly-growing hemp and CBD sector.

Peter McCusker is an experienced news and business editor, who believes it’s time to fully embrace the multiple, proven, medical benefits of the cannabis plant.


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