THE New Year has started on the wrong foot for the French cannabidiol industry with news the Government is to outlaw the sale of CBD flowers.
This is set to be a major blow to the French industry where CBD flowers can account for over half of sales in a market valued at €180m.
However the CBD industry has responded promptly and an application to the Council of State, the highest administrative court, to suspend the directive was submitted on New Year’s day.
The December 31 announcement came as the French Government finally ratified the decisions of the European Court of Justice and its own domestic courts in the long-running KanaVape saga.
‘Public Health & Public Order‘
And it brought two positive developments for the industry with French farmers now able to extract CBD from the whole plant, and the permitted THC content rising from 0.2% to 0.3%.
However, Charles Moral, president of the Union des Professionals du CBD (UPCBD), told Newsweed: “Flowers represent 70% of the turnover of our stores. So we can fear layoffs, closures … all this, in addition to the criminal risk for traders, and the stock that they can no longer sell.”
The Government decision to ban CBD flower sales was justified by the Inter-ministerial Mission for Combating Drugs and Addictive Behaviours (MILDECA) on health grounds.
It stated that ‘flowers are consumed almost exclusively in joints smoked with tobacco’ and that ‘many carcinogenic elements come from the combustion of organic substance’.
It also cited reasons of ‘public order’ citing the inability of police to easily distinguish between low-THC, CBD flowers and other cannabis flowers. However, quick and inexpensive tests are available to differentiate the two.
MILDECA also restated its position that ‘products containing CBD cannot, under penalty of criminal sanctions, make therapeutic claims’.
Devastating For Farmers
The new decree says hemp extracts, including CBD, can now legally be produced from the entire hemp plant, including the flower and leaves.
And, that hemp extracts and retail products containing such extracts can contain trace amounts of up to 0.3% THC.
With THC and CBD levels being linked, a 0.2% THC limit can produce around 6% CBD, with 0.3%, it can rise to almost 10% CBD.
With farmers being allowed to harvest the flower but not sell them, there has been a kick-back, too, from the unions.
François-Guillaume Piotrowski, president of the Association of French Cannabinoid Producers (AFPC), said: “The flower represents 80 to 85% of our sales. The impact is radical. Are companies going to resist this? No, it is improbable. We could not quantify in total, but at least 80% of our 280 members want to give up.”
Speaking to Newsweed Aurélien Delecroix, President of the Professional Hemp Trade Union (SPC), said: “The authorities say you cannot differentiate CBD hemp from THC. Of course it’s possible! There are quick tests to differentiate CBD and THC. So that will be one of the many arguments that will be put forward.”
Yann Bisiou, a specialist in drug law, and legal consultant to the UPCBD, said: “We spent our New Year’s Eve there on December 31, then we lodged our appeal with the Council of State on January 1. It was well registered on January 3, and was not rejected. So we hope that the judge will rule this week.”
For the Council of State to suspend the decree it is necessary to prove severe economic ramifications, as being petitioned by the farmers.
In Belgium and Luxembourg CBD flowers are treated like tobacco, although they are outlawed in the UK.
French CBD sales were expected to total around €180m in 2021. There are around 1,000 physical CBD stores in France and many more online outlets.