The highest court in the European Union today ruled that cannabidiol (CBD) is not a narcotic.
CBD does not appear to have an adverse effect on human health, ”the judges wrote. This decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) is a setback for EU countries which crack down on cannabidiol products, arguing that they are harmful to human health.
End of legal vagueness?
Five judges from the highest jurisdiction of the European Union in Luxembourg have spoken out on the legality of the French ban on CBD derived from hemp and have potentially upset the future of the hemp industry in Europe.
The French Kanavape case against a Czech company that sold CBD extracted from the whole plant for use in electronic cigarette cartridges has delivered its final verdict. The court ruled that the law which motivated this legal action against the Czech producers constituted an unnecessary restriction on the free movement of goods because the substance does not pose a threat to human health.
France, which only allowed extraction from cannabis seeds and fibers, and not from the whole plant, will have to cancel its policy deemed illegal.
“A decision to ban the marketing of CBD, which in fact constitutes the most restrictive obstacle to trade in products legally manufactured and marketed in other Member States, can only be adopted if this risk seems sufficiently established”, wrote the court.
- First, the Court overturned the European regulation on hemp, a cannabis containing less than 0,2% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), in the Union's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), because CBD “cannot be considered as an agricultural product ”.
- Second, the Court wrote that while countries may prohibit the free movement of goods of a prohibited substance such as narcotics, that prohibition does not apply to CBD, because the substance is not a narcotic.
Banning the sale of CBD products because they are cannabis extracts goes against the “general spirit” of the United Nations conventions, which aim to protect human health. CBD, unlike psychoactive THC, “does not appear to have any psychotropic or harmful effects on human health,” the court wrote.
CBD cannot be considered a narcotic
The Court recognized that a country can impede the free movement of goods on the basis of the public interest provided the legislation is appropriate and does not go beyond what is necessary. As an example, she cited the fact that France has not banned synthetic CBD because it is simply not produced from the whole cannabis plant.
The Court concluded that France is not required to prove that CBD is dangerous and must examine the scientific data to ensure that “the real risk to public health” is based only on purely hypothetical considerations ” .
Cannabis advocates hope the move could lay the groundwork for a legal market. Currently, many cannabidiol products in the EU are sold in a legal gray area that allows the sale of cannabis for agricultural purposes.
Béchir Saket, vice-president of the French cannabis advocacy group L630, said the decision was a “a monumental slap" for France. France, in particular, has fought against CBD products by closing stores and prosecuting the people who sell them.
“Many stores have been closed,” Mr Saket said on facebook. “Many directors and sometimes their families have been taken into police custody or have had their homes searched. But today the ECJ ruled in our favor. It is a European decision that secures the CBD market ”.