France sets temporary rules to keep $300 million market for CBD open

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French authorities have approved temporary guidelines which allow CBD products to be declared as food supplements and remain on the market pending authorization under the EU’s food safety program.

The development sends positive signals to CBD hemp growers, producers and investors anxious to take advantage of the French CBD market, estimated at €300 million.

“It will build a lot of confidence up and down the value chain. Even though it’s not a full authorization, it is a step in the right direction,” said Ludovic Rachou, President of the Union of Industrialists for the Valorization of Hemp Extracts (UIVEC), a trade group that worked on the rules, which were approved by the Ministry of Finance.

The EFSA standard

CBD products can continue to be sold this year if they meet criteria of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which the French reference in the temporary guidelines.

EFSA, which is now in the process of considering applications from EU producers of CBD as a new (or “novel”) food, requires food products to contain less than 1 microgram per kilogram of body weight of THC; any amount above that level is considered a contaminant and is therefore prohibited from being included in any product formulations. Also, under the temporary guidelines set separately by the French, the CBD content in individual products may not be more than 20%, and daily dosage is limited to 50 milligrams.

The temporary framework in France places responsibility for meeting those requirements on CBD distributors.

Under the French system for food supplements, producers need only to declare their intentions to introduce products to the market, but authorities previously barred CBD products from the system. With that restriction now lifted, CBD products may be declared and continue to be marketed in France.

EU process is slow

The regulations could be extended beyond the end of this year as approval of France’s plan for CBD by the European Commission, and authorizations of products under the novel foods regime, are not expected until the end of 2024, Rachou said.

The temporary guidelines in France restrict CBD sales to France only. To be sold in other countries, such products must be authorized under the EFSA food safety process.

UIVEC lobbied government authorities and politicians to get the temporary rules in place, arguing for “a strong, responsible and structured French food supplements industry.”

The trade group highlighted the absence of public health problems related to the consumption of CBD in Europe, where CBD has been widely available for the last five years, and said it advocated for quality control and consumer protection in the temporary provisions it proposed.

Second major EU market

CBD oils, tinctures, capsules, and topical creams have been widely available on the French market for several years, with sales flourishing both online and in physical stores in the absence of regulation. Local authorities have occasionally cracked down on the sale of certain CBD products in some regions.

France is the second major European country to allow CBD products to be marketed and sold under temporary rules. The UK is now in the process of sorting through more than 12,000 CBD products under the authorization system of the country’s Food Safety Agency, but has allowed producers to keep selling their products if they were on the market before Feb. 13, 2020.

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