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French Legal Ruling – A ‘Crucial Step’ For Hemp And CBD In Europe


A FRENCH ban on the use of hemp flowers and leaves in CBD oil should be overturned, says a senior advisor to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

France, like other European Countries including the UK, currently allows only hemp fibre and seeds to be grown and then used domestically.


However, in a non-binding opinion for the ECJ, Advocate General Evgeni Tanchev, today said cannabidiol, or CBD, isn’t considered a ‘narcotic’ drug. 

And, as such CBD oil products made from the whole hemp plant can be traded freely across the member states of the European Union.

Six-Year Legal Battle

The decision – which marks the near culmination of a six-year legal battle – has been welcomed, signifying, as it does, the growing acceptance of the benefits of the whole hemp plant. 

Eveline Van Keymeulen, Head of Life Science and Cannabis Regulation Practices at Allen & Overy, representing the appellants, said if adopted by the ECJ it would constitute binding case law.

In a press release she said: “This will require France to change its legislation in order to authorize the marketing of CBD extracted from the whole hemp plant, and could also compel other national authorities to (re) examine existing restrictions on hemp products, in the light of the principle of free movement of goods in the European Union.” 

She added: “The Advocate General’s conclusions constitute a crucial step towards regulatory harmonization and legal certainty which are essential for the CBD industry in Europe.” 

UK cannabis lawyer Robert Jappie, of multinational law firm Ince, said: “This is a really positive outcome. Any restrictions on use of the whole hemp plant is bad for the industry. 

“Although not quite a strict as the French position, British farmers are prohibited from utilising the bud and flower of the plant. This needs to change otherwise British farmers will fall behind our European counterparts.

“Of course, with the UK leaving the EU, it remains to be seen whether the government takes any notice. I hope they do as there is a real opportunity to put the UK at the forefront of the hemp and CBD industry by taking positive and proactive steps to open up the market.”

KanaVape, No More

In 2014 the French authorities launched legal action against the makers of KanaVape, an e-cigarette using a CBD oil made from hemp flowers and leaves imported from the Czech Republic.

In January 2018, the businessmen behind KanaVape – Antonin Cohen and Sébastien Béguerie – were given a 16-month suspended sentence, and a Euro 10,000 fine, by Marseilles Criminal Court.


In October 2018, the Court of Appeal of Aix-en-Provence overturned this first instance verdict, because the limitation on the origin of CBD might not be compliant with the freedom of movement of goods of the European Union. 

The Court of Appeal referred it to the ECJ to clarify this point.

Positivity For CBD In Europe

Speaking To BusinessCann following the ruling Mr Cohen, CEO of European CBD company Harmony, said: “It’s been a long journey, and this is a good step in the right direction. A lot of hard work has been undertaken and this is now beginning to pay off.”

“It’s a positive sign, and very exciting. It allows us to move on with positivity for CBD in Europe.”

Advisory opinions are not binding on the ECJ but their legal reasoning is followed in about 80% of cases. The court is expected to issue its ruling later this year, it has been reported.

Advocate General Tanchev went on to say that if a national court found there were ‘risks’ associated with CBD they should look to impose less restrictive measures than blocking the free movement of goods, ‘such as the establishment of a maximum CBD content’.

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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