Sweeping changes to France’s restrictive rules governing CBD could bring a boom to the sector over the next couple years, a French stakeholder group said following the release of a Parliamentary status report.
While the French CBD market today is estimated at €150-€200 million, enlightened regulatory changes could lead to a €1 billion market by 2023, Syndicat Professionnel du Chanvre (SPC), the French hemp union, estimated.
“This work has shown that the development of this sector in France is hampered by strong legal uncertainties and a certain reluctance on the part of the public authorities, both national and European,” the report, “Status of ‘Wellness’ Hemp,” says in an introduction. “The fact-finding mission considers that this reluctance, which lies mainly in the disproportionate fear of the misuse of a molecule extracted from the hemp flower, unnecessarily hinders the growth of a market where France has the potential to acquire a dominant position.”
‘The right direction’
The report will guide French lawmakers as they reshape national hemp legislation this year. Part of a wider government probe into applications for industrial hemp, the study drew input from local governments, industry federations, scientists, European Commission representatives, lawyers, academics and hemp business stakeholders.
“This parliamentary report is going in the right direction,” SPC President Aurélien Delecroix told Le Figaro as the report was released. “France, which was in a particularly damaging situation, will be able to gain a foothold in this new sector, and try to make up for the delays it has suffered so far,” Delecroix said.
SPC said France’s current strict hemp rules that forbid the use of flowers and leaves of the plant have put the country behind markets such as Great Britain, the United States and Switzerland.
Despite the tight restrictions, shops that sell CBD in food products, oils, cosmetics, e-cigarettes and smokable flowers have rapidly multiplied. France has nearly nearly 400 such retailers, almost four times more than two years ago, according to SPC.
Adapting to EU changes
The Parliamentary report in France comes after the European Commission ruled late last year 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.
The ECJ ruling has EU member states reviewing their laws and regulations, which will need to conform to the European Commission policies as they become institutionalized.
The Interministerial Mission for the Fight against Drugs and Addictive Behaviors (Mildeca) is known to be analyzing what the ECJ ruling means for French law.
“We know that Mildeca is not necessarily in line with some of our proposals, such as the revision of THC levels or the use of the flower,” Ludovic Mendes, a Parliamentary deputy from Moselle, told Le Figaro. “They can always find a reason for blocking. But we are very vigilant, that’s why we are making proposals,” Mendes said.
In the central proposal put forth in the French report, the authors recommended “the authorization of the cultivation, import, export and use of all parts of the hemp plant for industrial and commercial purposes, including the flower.”
The report also suggests increasing the THC level for hemp at harvest to between 0.6% and 1.0%, a proposition that would push beyond the 0.3% THC level the European Commission recently proposed to replace the current barrier of 0.2%. The change to 0.3% THC for Europe is expected to become effective in early 2023.
Among 20 specific proposals, the report said the French government should:
- Renounce the current 0% THC limit in finished products and establish THC thresholds specific to each category of finished product likely to contain CBD such as food, e-liquids and cosmetics.
- Expand the national hemp catalog to include the most relevant varieties from the European list of hemp cultivars.
- Quickly authorize national and local hemp organizations to carry out planting trials for the production of CBD.
- Place the CBD flowers under the status of “smoking product made from plants other than tobacco,” and make testing devices for THC and CBD available to control officers.
- Intensify actions against producers and distributors who report therapeutic claims on CBD products.
- Change the database of cosmetics products to add new entries for natural hemp extracts from all parts of the hemp plant.Cooperate with other EU member states to develop harmonized THC limit levels for industrial hemp.
- Obtain approval from the European Commission to use specific CBD health claims in food products and dietary supplements.
- Define non-binding recommended daily doses for CBD consumption and mandate them on product packaging with health warnings.
- Exclude children and pregnant women from consuming products containing CBD.
- Ensure that smoking products containing CBD are subject to regulations regarding health warnings and prohibit advertising and sales to those under 18.
- Encourage large French food and supplements companies to file as soon as possible with the European Commission in order to obtain the right to market CBD products as novel food.
- Set up a support system for small and medium-sized businesses in the novel food authorization procedures for CBD products.
- Encourage the structuring of a “well-being hemp” sector around the SPC and InterChanvre, another trade organization, “in order to strengthen the defense of the interests of professionals at national and European level.”
- Invite French public research institutes, in particular the National Institute of Health and Medical Research, to initiate work aimed at improving knowledge of the contributions of CBD in reducing THC dependence and its harmful effects on the body.