Not only is CBD legal in France, but hemp flower as well, if the latest court ruling in the country stands.
French outlet RFI reports that On 30 December 2021, the French government legalized the sale of hemp-derived products containing CBD with 0.3 percent THC or less, after the country’s ban on CBD fell apart a year earlier. However—potentially to the dismay of D8 and hemp flower lovers—the government also banned the sale of hemp flower, citing its supposed psychotropic effects.
But a high court in France overturned that ban, ruling that CBD has not been proven to be harmful and that there are legitimate uses for flower that go beyond smoking.
On December 29, France’s Council of State, the body that advises the government on legislation and acts as a type of Supreme Court, ruled that a general and absolute ban on the marketing of the substance in its raw state was “disproportionate.” They also didn’t find solid evidence of harm from CBD. If anything, there’s evidence of the contrary.
“The harmfulness of other molecules present in cannabis flowers and leaves, in particular CBD, has not been established,” the council said. The council added that evidence suggests CBD has “relaxing properties and anticonvulsant effects, but does not have a psychotropic effect and does not cause dependence.”
In other words, the court ruled that hemp flower should not automatically be categorized as psychotropic—rather it’s far from it. Additionally, it can be consumed as a homemade tea or infused oil and not just smoked. Homemade tinctures or vaporized flower are other considerations.
Concerns Over Distinguishing Cannabis
Despite allowing flower with the latest court ruling, concerns were raised regarding exactly how the government plans on separating hemp from THC-rich cannabis, which are nearly indistinguishable to the naked eye. The Council of State considered that the THC level “could be controlled by means of rapid tests.”
The European Court of Justice ruled in November 2020 that the ban on CBD in France, which was legal in several other European countries, was illegal based on the principle of free movement of goods.
Then the highest court in the French judiciary, The Court of Cassation, ruled last June that any CBD legally produced in the European Union could legally be sold in France.
RFI reports that France is now home to around 2,000 CBD shops, according to the professional hemp association (SPC). In addition, the industry’s annual turnover is estimated at around €500 million, or $534.1 million USD. More than half of those sales are from flower alone.
Experts in the country say that the court’s latest ruling gives the green light for an “economically sustainable” hemp industry that can withstand the test of time.
Hemp Today reports that French hemp could bring €1.5 ($1.6B USD) to €2.5 billion ($2.6B USD) in annual turnover and result in 18,000-20,000 jobs, according to a French Senate group.
The French gray market for CBD was about €200 million ($214M USD) in 2021, and is expected to reach roughly €300 million ($321M USD) this year, UIVEC, a French extracts trade group, estimated. UIVEC also estimated that about 300-500 hectares of hemp were grown for CBD-producing flower in 2022.
The rules are expected to roll out in early 2023 as the legislation moves forward, and the government is expected to declare hemp compatible with the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy, develop a strategy for the industry, and set specific regulations.