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CBD not a narcotic – industry reacts to Europe’s landmark KanaVape ruling



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Key figures in the industry have welcomed a verdict by Europe’s highest court that CBD is not a narcotic and has no harmful effects on human health.

The European Court of Justice (CJEU) has confirmed that CBD is not a narcotic drug, in a significant milestone for the industry.

In a verdict delivered on Thursday 20 November, bringing the six-year KanaVape case to a close, the CJEU ruled that CBD is not a drug within the UN’s Single Convention.

It went on to say that the cannabinoid does not appear to have any ‘psychotropic’ or ‘harmful effect on human health’.

The decision marks a turning point for the European market, which has been shrouded in uncertainty following a preliminary conclusion issued by the European Commission (EC) earlier this year suggesting CBD should be classified as a narcotic drug rather than a Novel Food.

It comes following a six-year dispute between French authorities and the founders of the first CBD vaporizer, KanaVape, over whether restricting the sale of CBD products legally produced in other EU countries breaches single market rules.

In 2014 French authorities took legal action against co-founders Antonin Cohen and Sébastien Béguerie, for importing hemp flowers from the Czech Republic into the country, where the extraction of flowers from the cannabis plant is not permitted.

The CJEU ruling has been welcomed by key players in the industry, who now expect the EC to proceed with Novel Food applications.

In their analysis of the ruling, London-based cannabis consultancy firm, The Canna Consultants concluded that the Judgement ‘increases the pressure’ on the EC to ‘remove the present ban on the advancement of the Novel Food assessments’ of CBD products.

Co-founder Stephen Oliver commented: “We have always indicated that we believe that a literal and strict interpretation of the definitions within the 1961 Convention was against the spirit of that agreement, and undermined by the progress which has been made in cannabinoid understanding and technology in the almost 60 years since.

“We are pleased that Europe is now free of this restrictive and unjustified limitation on the advancement of the cannabinoid industry. In conjunction with our clients, we will now advance their Novel Food applications which have been on hold for a number of months.”

Stephen Murphy of cannabis market intelligence firm Prohibition Partners, congratulated those involved in the success of the case and described it as a ‘massive boost’ for European consumers.

He said: “The ruling is a blow to conservative parties who sought to discredit the benefits of a naturally derived compound and a massive boost to patients and consumers in Europe who are using CBD products daily to improve their quality of life. The ruling has significant implications for future classification by the UN on the subject later this year and gives much needed confidence to a sector looking to provide greater access.”

Meanwhile Peter Reynolds, of CannaPro, the trade association for the UK’s cannabis, CBD and hemp businesses, said the news brought into question the guidance issued by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), which requires British companies to apply for novel food status by March 31, 2021.

“The fact that the highest court in Europe has determined on the basis of the evidence that CBD poses no risk to human health, just highlights how the FSA is not operating on the basis of truth, but on the basis of the big business lobbyists, that have been pressing it to make the regulation of CBD so onerous that small companies can’t deal in it anymore,” he said.

“I don’t think the ruling in itself will have any direct impact on the FSA guidance in the UK, but it shines a light of truth on what is really going on.”