EU Beat France, CBD Authorized All through EU


In a high court ruling with far-reaching implications about EU governance vs member state law, the EU beat France making CBD legal throughout the EU, and setting a precedent for tons of cases in the future.

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What was the case originally about?

Before we get to the ins and outs of this landmark EU high court ruling, let’s look at the case that forced its way to the top of the EU judicial system. The story starts in 2014 when Sébastien Béguerie and Antonin Cohen were prosecuted under French law for marketing and selling a hemp-derived CBD vape product under the name Kanavape. France has very specific laws regarding the parts of a cannabis plant that can be used (only the fiber and seeds), and the amount of THC that can be in a product. The latter, in fact, is 0% as of 2018, which created an essential ban on CBD oil, since its nearly impossible to create a CBD oil without at least a trace amount of THC. France also doesn’t allow the leaves or flowers of a cannabis plant to be used for preparations of any kind, and the Kanavape product was made from the whole plant.

Béguerie and Cohen were importing and selling a Kanavape product that was made in the Czech Republic. Though this Kanavape product followed all EU mandates concerning the use and sale of CBD products, particularly the parts of the plant used, and a THC content that didn’t exceed .2%, it didn’t gel with French law which disagreed with the parts of the plant used, and the THC in the product. The two were found guilty.

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After the guilty verdict, the two men appealed their case, citing that the product they imported and sold was completely legal by EU law, and that EU law allows the free trade of products across EU member state borders so long as the products meet EU standards. In this case, they did, and in time it was eventually kicked up to the highest court in the EU, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in Luxembourg, which had never made a ruling on CBD legality before. Today, November 19th, 2020, the court gave its ruling.

The court was tasked with making a ruling with a lot of further implications. Within the world of CBD itself it would make it impossible for any member state to deny an import that meets EU standards, thus legalizing CBD in all EU countries. The second aspect is that as part of the ruling, the court also had to decide whether CBD itself is a narcotic, thus setting an EU standard for that as well, and forcing that standard on all member states. Last, through these decisions, the EU set a standard for the general trade of products – CBD or anything else – leaving a large space open for new litigation and legislation based on this new case law.

What was the ruling?

As per the title of the article, the EU beat France as the CJEU found that France was in violation of EU law by not allowing products to be imported into the country that meet EU standards. Along with this, the CJEU also made the ruling that CBD is not a narcotic, saying “It does not appear to have any psychotropic effect or any harmful effect on human health.” It went on to say, “The national court must assess available scientific data in order to make sure that the real risk to public health alleged does not appear to be based on purely hypothetical considerations”.

Together, the two aspects of this ruling force a CBD legalization across all EU member states, reinforce that products can freely be traded between EU member countries, and also reinforce a general foundational aspect of the EU, that EU law trumps individual member state law. This, of course, gives a major boost to the CBD industry which has been operating in gray area throughout Europe for quite some time; and a major blow to any EU country that was trying to ban CBD, like Slovakia, which will now also have to allow citizens to use CBD products.

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Beth Edmonds