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France overturns ban on sale of CBD flower – what you need to know

The French Council of State ruled that sale of CBD in leaf and flower form does not pose a risk to public health. 



France overturns ban on sale of CBD hemp flower – what you need to know
Regulators in France have reversed a ban on the sale and consumption of CBD flower. Photos by Elsa Olofsson/Anthony Choren on Unsplash

Regulators in France have reversed a ban on the sale and consumption of CBD flower. We’ve summarised everything you need to know. 

As of Thursday, 29 December 2022, the French Council of State (Conseil d’État) overturned a decision to cancel the ban on the sale and consumption of raw CBD hemp flowers and leaves.

The Council – which advises the government on legislation and acts as a supreme court for administrative justice – ruled that an absolute ban on the marketing of the substance was ‘disproportionate’.

It added that the sale of CBD in leaf and flower form does not pose a risk to public health. 

Why was CBD flower banned?

In December 2021, the French government approved the sale of CBD products containing less than 0.3% THC, but the regulation simultaneously prohibited the sale of hemp flowers and leaves for smoking or drinking as tea.

The ban was initially made on health grounds, following the publication of two small studies suggesting the dangers of CBD were unknown. 

However, it was in direct opposition to a 2020 ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), which found that CBD is not a narcotic and that EU Member States may not ban the marketing of CBD when extracted from the whole plant.

The decree also contradicted a ruling made by France’s Constitutional Council, which declared that a substance must be both toxic and addictive to be classed as a narcotic. CBD would not fall under this definition according to the CJEU ruling.

The controversial decision received widespread opposition from those in the industry, with fears it would lead to the loss of tens of thousands of jobs.

At the time of the ban, the Syndicat du Chanvre, which brings together players in the French wellness hemp, medical cannabis and textile hemp sectors, said that CBD hemp flowers make up 50% of the entire CBD market. 

A petition launched against the decree gathered over 40,000 signatures.

What does the new ruling mean for consumers? 

CBD flowers often exist in a regulatory grey area. EU law permits the cultivation of hemp and its approved varieties; however, not all member states have regulated CBD flowers. 

Now that the Council of State has overturned the ban, consumers in France will be able to legally buy CBD hemp flowers and leaves. 

These dried flowers are derived from the hemp plant and contain a THC level below 0.3%, making them non-intoxicating. They are often smoked, vaporised or brewed with hot water and drunk as tea.

In recent years, CBD flowers have become increasingly popular as a wellness product, particularly as a relaxant due to CBD’s potential anti-anxiety effects. Some people prefer smoking or vaporising CBD flower rather than taking oils, tinctures and edibles, due to the fast-acting effects of these administration methods.

CBD flower is also sometimes used by those trying to reduce the amount of THC they are consuming, or as an alternative to smoking tobacco. 

What does it mean for the French CBD industry?

Alongside cancelling the ban on the sale of CBD flower, judges reversed the obligation for hemp farmers to enter into a contract with a buyer before starting production.

Both decisions have been welcomed by those at the forefront of the country’s CBD sector as moves which will allow the industry to flourish.

The French Association of Cannabinoid Producers (AFPC), which represents nearly 300 hemp producers in France, commented: “As the representative of more than 300 farms involved in the production of active hemp, the AFPC welcomes the decision of the Council, which will allow all the players in the French CBD sector, which currently has more than 30,000 jobs, to develop their activities serenely.

“The AFPC will continue, for its part, its work of exchange and cooperation with the public authorities, deploring the inaction of the traditional interprofessions of hemp on all the files relating to hemp with active ingredients, in order to develop a appropriate regulatory framework, allowing the development of a strong and prosperous French industry.” [Translated using Google]

Benjamin-Alexandre Jeanroy, CEO of Paris-based cannabis consulting firm Augur Associates, also welcomed the news but highlighted that the lengthy legal battle may have stalled the progress of the sector.

“There is still much to do,” Mr Jeanroy told Cannabis Wealth.

“We need to work on and implement a regulation favourable to sustainably developing the cultivation, extraction, processing and distribution chains of qualitative wellness CBD products to consumers.”

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Sarah Sinclair is a respected cannabis journalist writing on subjects related to science, medicine, research, health and wellness. She is managing editor of Cannabis Health, the UK’s leading title covering medical cannabis and CBD, and sister titles, Cannabis Wealth and Psychedelic Health. Sarah has an NCTJ journalism qualification and an MA in Journalism from the University of Sunderland. Sarah has over six years experience working on newspapers, magazines and digital-first titles, the last two of which have been in the cannabis sector. She has also completed training through the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society securing a certificate in Medical Cannabis Explained. She is a member of PLEA’s (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) advisory board, has hosted several webinars on cannabis and women's health and has moderated at industry events such as Cannabis Europa. Sarah Sinclair is the editor of Cannabis Health. Got a story? Email / Follow us on Twitter: @CannabisHNews / Instagram: @cannabishealthmag


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