THE KanaVape case has returned to France and following a hearing yesterday at the Aix-en-Provence Court of Appeal a final judgement is due next month.
In January 2018, the businessmen behind KanaVape – Antonin Cohen and Sébastien Béguerie of SAS Catlab – were given a 16-month suspended sentence, and a €10,000 fine, by Marseilles Criminal Court.
Later that year, the Aix Appeal Court, 20 miles north of Mareseilles, overturned this first instance verdict, saying the ruling may not be compliant with the freedom of movement of goods of the European Union.
The Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) was therefore tasked with answering whether cannabidiol (CBD) was a narcotic, and whether France could prohibit its importation from one of the member countries of Europe if it was produced legally.
CBD Not A Narcotic
In November, last year the CJEU ruled that CBD is not a narcotic, that a member state cannot restrict the free movement of CBD products and that CBD can be derived from the hemp flower.
This was a snub for the MILDECA – the French Inter-ministerial Mission for Combating Drugs and Addictive Behaviours – which had interpreted the legal texts in a restricted manner.
Wednesday’s hearing was intended to clarify the various points on which the court will have to render its decision, namely:
–the legality of the alleged French ban on CBD
–the presentation of Kanavape as a ‘drug’ which had served as an argument for the Ministry of Health to stop the marketing of Kanavape in France
–An incitement on the use of narcotics for clinical studies on cannabis
–And the possession of cannabis
The decision of the Aix Court of Appeal will be based on the judgment of the CJEU, although it does have the choice to waive it. Its final decision will be delivered on November 17.
Lawyers Xavier Pizarro, Éveline Van Keymeulen and Stéphane Pages represented Mr Beguerie and Mr Cohen.
In a pre-hearing press release Mr Béguerie said: “It is high time that we were recognized as innovative entrepreneurs and not as drug traffickers in our own country. “
The case stretches back to 2014 when the French authorities launched a legal action against the makers of KanaVape, which is an e-cigarette using a CBD oil made from hemp flowers imported from the Czech Republic.
In June this year France’s highest court ruled that CBD – including CBD flowers – are legal in the country, although there is still some uncertainty around the permissible level of THC, while the French government is currently considering measures to temper the CBD market.