THE French CBD industry is celebrating after Government efforts to outlaw the sale of CBD flowers were suspended by the country’s highest court.
With flower accounting for almost three-quarters of sales this looks set to free the French CBD industry which believes it has the potential to surpass sales of €1bn within a few years.
The Government ban was announced on New Year’s Eve and within 24 hours a legal challenge was launched to have the decree dismissed.
On Friday, January 14, France’s highest court – the Council of State led by Judge Mrs Von Coester – listened to arguments from the industry through Hemp Professional Syndicate (SPC) and the Union of CBD Professionals (UPCBD).
They asked the court to annul the government decision arguing it created an ‘economic emergency’ with many of the hundreds of CBD stores saying almost three-quarters of their income is derived from flower sales.
Yesterday, January 24, the court ‘temporarily suspended’ the ban, with a statement saying: “The judge in chambers of the Council of State considers that there is a serious doubt about the legality of this general and absolute prohibition measure because of its disproportionate nature.
“Indeed, it does not appear, at the end of the contradictory investigation and the exchanges which took place during the public hearing, that the flowers and leaves of cannabis sativa L. whose THC content is less than 0.3 % would present a degree of harmfulness to health justifying a total and absolute prohibition measure.”
It concluded: “While waiting for the Council of State to rule definitively on the merits of the legality of the contested decree, the judge in chambers temporarily suspends the contested ban.”
Preserves The Industry
Whilst the ruling is provisional and based on a ‘disproportionate’ act by the Government the court sill has to rule on the substance of the decree.
It has nevertheless been warmly received by the industry which believes it indicates a favourable attitude of the court in the case.
Writing on Twitter Yann Bisiou, a specialist in drug law, and legal consultant to the UPCBD, said: “A very nice decision that preserves the sector by allowing the cultivation of #cannabis light AND the marketing of the #CBD flowers and derivatives.”
He had earlier recounted how the UPCBD executives ‘worked on New Year’s Eve and lodged its appeal with the Council of State on January 1.
Speaking at the January 14, court hearing Aurélien Delecroix, of the SPC, told the court the industry’s currently valued at up to €400m with the potential to reach €1bn ‘in a mature market’.
Representing the Government at that hearing was the MILDECA, the Ministry of Health, which argued French law only allows for the sale of CBD extracts, whilst contending that CBD is psychoactive.
Further objections included arguments that as CBD flower is often smoked and could be mistaken for THC flowers creating problems of ‘public order’.
The latest court case for the French CBD industry chimes with the KanaVape case which rumbled on for six years before being determined in the industry’s favour.
This had seen the French government argue that CBD is a narcotic only for the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to overturn this decision and rule CBD is not narcotic.
This opened the doors for the French industry to import and sell product from across the European Union under the free movement of goods rules which apply to the 28 member states.
As for what happens next? With an Election looming and President Macron wishing to remain a tough stance on drugs there may well be further political manoeuvres, although the authorities can only challenge the ECJ decision if they prove that CBD is not safe and can be viewed a narcotic.
Not The End Of The Road
Benjamin-Alexandre Jeanroy, of Paris-based cannabis consultancy Augur Associates, said: “This result is great news for all businesses that faced having their livelihoods taken from them by the government actions. But it’s in no way the end of the road.
“We will have to see how things unfold but I believe the Government will look for another baseless argument. As long as the government wishes to show it is ‘tough’ on drugs” – whatever that means – we can throw out any rational, data, or even legal argument, it won’t make them change their position. Not during an election campaign.”
The December 31 ban on flower sales was accompanied by two pieces of positive news with French farmers now able to extract CBD from the whole plant, and the permitted THC content rising from 0.2% to 0.3%.