Outlets selling CBD in France multiply fast after EU changes

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Shops selling CBD are multiplying quickly in France, the first signal that the sector could experience a boom after recent developments that clarified the compound’s legality across the European Union.

The number of CBD shops has quickly grown to roughly 300 from just 30 earlier this year, according to the Le Monde newspaper, and the number grows daily as entrepreneurs scramble to open retail outlets. Real estate agents say demand for locations is strong in major cities including Paris, Bordeaux, Marseille and Lyon.

“Out of around 100 calls per day, we are receiving 10 to 15 from people looking for commercial sites for CBD in Paris,” Kevin Uzan of commercial real estate agency Commerce Immo, Paris, told Le Monde. “They are looking for bohemian-style neighbourhoods such as République, Bastille, le Marais, Saint-Germain, and Saint-Michel.”

Behind the boom

The developments in France come after the European Commission ruled last month that CBD is not a drug. That action came on the heels of a judgment in which the European Union Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that CBD cannot be regarded as narcotic, and that CBD products should enjoy the same free movement of goods among member states as other legal products. The ECJ case arose out of an appeal by two businessmen who were arrested for selling CBD vape products made in Czech Republic on the French market.

While many CBD shops, organic outlets, health foods and other specialty retailers have long offered CBD across Europe despite its unclear legal status in member states and at the EU level, in France the harvesting and use of hemp flowers was specifically banned in 2018, eliminating any domestic production, and drastically reducing the number of CBD shops in the country, according to LeMonde.

French CBD sellers, as well as those in other EU countries, have suffered repeated problems with law enforcement regarding CBD as the compound went undefined by the EU until November 2020.

Too early to speculate

As laws in France and those in other EU member states now need to adapt to reflect the ECJ ruling, hemp enterprises are eyeing strategic positions in farming and processing, and French CBD brands can be expected. But things will still take time to sort out, said HaïleSelassé Tefari of Le Canebier, a vertically integrated consortium in the south of France focused on organic hemp essential oils.

“It’s too early to speculate about what will happen in the short term,” he said, warning that companies still risk problems such as seizure of shipments and crops by ill-informed authorities. “The government needs to be better inspired in its approach to the law after the ECJ case and the European Commission’s decisions,” Tefari said.

A €1 billion market?

Aurélien Delecroix, president of trade group le Syndicat professionnel du chanvre (SPC) told LeMonde the French market for CBD could grow quickly to reach €1 billion. His group comprises about 90 producers, processors, distributors and other stakeholders from the hemp wellness and therapeutic cannabis sectors. The Syndicate was formed in June 2018 to take up the effort to free hemp flowers after the ban was instituted that same year.

In a manifesto released earlier this year, the Syndicate encouraged development of the French hemp sector specifically by freeing up the flower, but also through further exploitation of hemp seed as a natural food, and by expanding hemp fiber’s use in the construction industry, in bioplastics, textiles, and as an alternative energy source.

France is by far Europe’s biggest hemp grower. The country’s hemp economy has traditionally been based on the production of certified planting seeds, grain production for food, and fiber used in the paper and the building industries.

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