Highest EU Court Makes Landmark Decision for CBD Industry

20th November 2020

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) yesterday (19 November) announced its landmark decision that an EU member state cannot ban the marketing and sale of CBD which has been extracted from the hemp plant in its entirety. The long-awaited ruling was prompted by the prosecution of French company, Kanavape, for marketing products containing whole plant CBD extract.

In 2014, French courts convicted the owners of Kanavape for criminal offences – namely, using whole plant CBD extract. Despite being the biggest hemp cultivator in Europe, France has some of the strictest rules on CBD. In fact, only CBD that has been extracted from the seeds and fibre – which contains very little – is permitted. Furthermore, the import of whole plant extracts has, until now, also been prohibited.

whole hemp plant extract CBD
Close up of whole hemp (Cannabis Sativa) plants

Following their conviction, the owners of Kanavape, Antonin Chen and Sébastien Béguerie, appealed the case and it was referred to the CJEU in May of this year. Yesterday’s decision marks a precedent for EU member states as the global CBD industry continues to grow.

What did the Court decide?

The CJEU yesterday ruled that France’s ban on CBD products extracted from the whole of the hemp plant is contrary to EU law. The only exemption of this ruling would be if the enactment of the ban was considered to be appropriate and proportionate for the protection of public health.

The Court concluded that:

[the EU provisions on the free movement of goods] must be interpreted as precluding national legislation which prohibits the marketing of CBD lawfully produced in another Member State when it is extracted from the Cannabis sativa plant in its entirety…”

It was specifically noted in the ruling that France’s prohibition of CBD products “would not affect the marketing of synthetic CBD that has the same properties as CBD extracted from the Cannabis sativa plant in its entirety and that could be used as a substitute for the latter.” Therefore, the ban is not deemed appropriate for “attaining that objective in a consistent and systematic manner.”

While this case focused primarily on the current guidelines set out in France, the decision will set a precedent for all EU member states.

Antonin Cohen, founder and CEO of Harmony and former manager of Kanavape, commented that “this verdict is an important step in ensuring the safety of consumers of CBD products.”

He continued: “The lack of clear regulations prevents the market from developing in a safe way. It is essential to develop strict quality standards in the interest of consumers to avoid the circulation of adulterated products.

“There is an urgent need to harmonise European regulations to guarantee the safety of European consumers.”

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