The government’s ban on the sale of raw hemp flowers and leaves containing CBD, the non-psychotropic molecule in cannabis, has plunged the players in this booming industry into disarray and amazement.
“We are given this decree on December 30 and January 2 we should have emptied our stocks, no longer sell?”, Indignant Brice Verdier, the owner of the CBD’eau store, in the 15th arrondissement of Paris.
“If tomorrow I stop all infusions (Editor’s note: based on leaves), not to mention raw flowers or resin, instead of hiring someone, I close the shop,” he threatens.
On the shelves of his shop, oils, confectionery and cosmetic products based on CBD are mixed with this “light cannabis” with virtues presented as relaxing and which is attracting more and more consumers.
Among them are also products now banned: infusions and varieties of flowers, which represent more than two-thirds of the references and 80% of the store’s turnover.
“Former restaurant”, Brice Verdier launched into the CBD less than a year ago, attracted like many other entrepreneurs by this buoyant market which, among other things, whets the appetite of tobacconists.
France had some 400 CBD (or cannabidiol) shops at the start of 2021, there are now almost four times more. The turnover of the sector is estimated by the unions at one billion euros, two-thirds drawn from the marketing of raw flowers and leaves.
– “Spirit of resistance” –
Despite their prohibition by the decree of the Ministry of the Interior, Brice Verdier “decided to continue” to sell them, while the unions, convinced of their rights, have been engaged in a long legal fight for several years.
“Very clearly there is a spirit of resistance, in particular because there is absolute certainty of the illegality of this decree with regard in particular to Community law” explains Charles Morel, president of the Union of CBD professionals.
In November 2020, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled illegal the ban in France of CBD (authorized in several other European countries), in the name of the principle of the free movement of goods.
European justice also considered that it had “no harmful effect on health” and could not be considered as a narcotic, unlike its twin high in THC, the psychotropic molecule of cannabis.
The Court of Cassation – the highest court in the French judicial order – followed suit in June, ruling that any CBD legally produced in the EU could be sold in France.
For Charles Morel, of the Union of CBD professionals, the timing of the publication of the decree is “quite absurd” since the Constitutional Council will rule on Friday on the conformity with the constitution of provisions serving as the legal basis for the text.
– Counter productive –
Aurélien Delecroix, president of the professional hemp union, also brushes aside the government’s arguments in terms of public health (flowers are smoked) and public order (the police cannot distinguish between “narcotic” cannabis. ).
On the first point, “we should also ban tobacco and other smoking plants,” he said.
For the second, “rapid tests for THC levels already exist”, which make it possible to differentiate CBD from “narcotic” cannabis in a few minutes, Mr. Delecroix assures us.
According to the official, such a ban goes “against the government’s objective of combating drug trafficking” since it would deprive former smokers of substitutes for cannabis.
This is the case of Jules, 24, who found in the CBD a “rescue route” to his addiction developed during the confinement of spring 2020.
A product “healthier, more controlled” and suitable for a “transition”, judges this apprentice in mechanical engineering who ensures that “many consumers go through it”.
If tobacconists do not step up to the plate, the order also provokes the anger of small farmers, whose outlets are reduced to the sole production of hemp for the extraction of the CBD molecule (reused in derivative products). Much more expensive and much less profitable production.
It is a “catastrophe against the grain of history”, deplores the Creusois Jouany Chatoux, for whom this text condemns any hope of a “French production sector”.