CBD is not a narcotic under EU law, highest court rules

The top EU Court pointed out that CBD "does not appear to have any psychotropic effect or any harmful effect on human health" according to the current state of scientific knowledge. [SHUTTERSTOCK/JETACOMAUTOFOCUS]

Banning the marketing of cannabidiol oil (CBD) imported from other member states is contrary to EU law since there is no scientific evidence that hemp-based products have psychotropic effects, Europe’s highest court has found.

CBD is a lighter chemical compound extracted from hemp plants but containing less than 0.2% of the active substance tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

The legal case concerns the marketing in France of Kanavape, an e-cigarette using CBD oil imported from the Czech Republic, where organic hemp plants were processed.

Manufacturers of Kanavape’s cartridges were convicted on drug charges and sentenced to 18 months in jail, with a fine of €10,000, as the current French regulatory framework forbids the marketing of products derived from the whole hemp plant, including those containing the lighter chemical compound CBD.

Confirming the advisory opinion of its advocate general, the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that the decision to restrict the trade of products lawfully manufactured and marketed in another member state can only be adopted if a health risk to public health appears sufficiently established.

However, the ECJ pointed out that CBD “does not appear to have any psychotropic effect or any harmful effect on human health” according to the current state of scientific knowledge.

In particular, CBD has not been mentioned in any of the two United Nations’s conventions on psychotropic substances and on narcotic drugs, which constitutes the legal basis to classify a product as a ‘drug’ or ‘narcotic drug’.

The ruling represents a victory for the CBD industry, whose European market is expected to grow 400% by 2023, according to a report from Brightfield Group, a market intelligence firm.

“This verdict is an important step in ensuring consumer safety with CBD products,” said Antonin Cohen, co-director of Kanavape, after the ruling was released.

He said that since 2014, when the first CBD vaporizer was marketed, the demand has grown sharply, and hundreds of companies have launched their own CBD products.

“But a lack of clear regulations prevents safe market development,” he said, calling on developing strict quality standards looking out for consumers’ interests in order to avoid the circulation of dangerous products.

As for the WHO, CBD does not appear to have any potential for abuse nor to be harmful to health, there is an urgent need to harmonize EU regulations to guarantee the safety of European consumers, Cohen concluded.

Commenting on the advisory opinion of the advocate general in May, the pan-European trade association for cannabinoids and terpenes companies (ACTIVE) hailed the mention that CBD must not be considered as narcotic drug marks.

“In the past five years, CBD consumers and entrepreneurs have been treated by the French state as criminals,” ACTIVE’s executive director Laurène Tran told EURACTIV.

For her, the advocate general’s opinion, now confirmed by the Court, represented an opportunity for the French and EU industry to continue their efforts towards the professionalisation of the sector. “We are just getting started,” she pointed out.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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