A French court last week overturned a government ban on hemp flower, ruling that the nation’s prohibition on cannabis with less than 0.3% THC is not justified.
In December 2021, the French government authorized the sale of CBD products containing less than 0.3% THC. But at the same time, authorities instituted a ban on hemp flower and leaves. The decision followed a November 2020 European Court of Justice ruling that France’s ban on CBD, which is legal in other countries in the European Union, violated the principle of the free movement of commercial goods.
In January 2022, France’s Council of State — the body that advises the French government on legislation and serves as the country’s highest court for administrative justice — provisionally overruled the ban, ruling that the flowers and leaves of low-THC cannabis are “devoid of narcotic properties” and could therefore be marketed throughout France.
Last week, the council affirmed its January 2021 decision, issuing a ruling on December 29 that held a general and absolute ban on the marketing of low-THC cannabis in its raw state was “disproportionate.” The council held that hemp flower and leaves do not “create a risk to public health” that could justify a complete prohibition.
“The harmfulness of other molecules present in cannabis flowers and leaves, in particular CBD, has not been established,”
The council also argued that according to scientific research, CBD has “relaxing properties and anticonvulsant effects, but does not have a psychotropic effect and does not cause dependence.”
The court rejected arguments that the ban on hemp flower and leaves is necessary because law enforcement officers can not easily tell the difference between low-THC hemp flowers and leaves and cannabis with “narcotic properties.” Instead, the Council of State maintained that THC levels of cannabis “could be controlled by means of rapid tests.”
More Than 10% Of French Adults Already Use CBD
The ruling comes as CBD is gaining popularity among French consumers. In a
Representatives of the French CBD industry believe that the ruling will eventually lead to a sustainable domestic hemp and cannabidiol industry in the country. According to a national professional hemp trade group, France already has about 2,000 CBD stores selling about €500 million per year, with more than half of the total generated by sales of CBD hemp flower, despite the government ban. However, a lack of legislative clarity in France is hampering the growth of the industry, according to a U.S. government analysis of the situation.
“While CBD production has reached full industrial scale in some neighboring countries, legal uncertainties in France have constrained the emergence of a sustainable and competitive French industry,” the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
The report noted that the French Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, objected to the council’s January 2022 provisional decision, writing that “in general, all substances that fall under the heading of cannabis, drugs, are very bad for your health.” The dispute leaves the French hemp farmers and manufacturers with a lack of regulations to guide the growth of the country’s domestic CBD industry.
“Even if Gérald Darmanin’s opinion is not widely shared by political leaders, public policy makers are very conflicted on what to do,” the USDA added. “For the industry, the direct consequence of this confusion is the challenge of financing new business, and this is limiting the mechanization of CBD cultivation and investment in new extraction equipment. On the retail side, the French State Council ruling is a big relief. More than 1,800 stores have already opened in France and 70 percent of turnover depends on the sale of raw flowers, even if they are not grown in France.”