The use and popularity of Cannabinol (CBD) has been increasing tremendously in the US. However, it has been much slower to gain ground in Europe, mostly because France and other nations in the European Union (EU) have had a controversial ban on CBD products. But, that may soon all be changing.
According to the Hemp Industry Daily, France’s blanket ban on the marketing of all hemp-derived CBD products contradicts EU law on the free movement of goods. That decision was handed down by the Court of Justice’s judge advocate general in a legal opinion by the last week.
If the advocate general’s opinion is followed by the Court, it would set a binding precedent and have a significant impact on the CBD industry in Europe, paving the way for similar provisions in other EU member states to be challenged before the lower national courts.
The Court of Justice – the top court in the EU – is expected to pass final judgment on ruling in the fall. In the vast majority of cases, the Court follows the opinion of the advocate general.
In this case, Advocate General Evgeni Tanchev wrote that EU law on the free movement of goods prohibits France or any other EU member state from banning the import of CBD from another member state where that oil is extracted from the whole hemp plant.
France allows hemp cultivation, but limits the plant’s legal uses to its fiber and grain components.
“If CBD oil were to be considered a narcotic drug it would fall outside the scope” of EU regulations on the movement of goods, Tanchev wrote. “In my view, that is not the case.”
According to Tanchev, the French court needs to take a position on whether any risk associated with the non-intoxicating effects of CBD has been discovered or studied.
If the French court were to find that such a risk existed, an alternative measure – for example, a maximum limit on CBD content – that would not be as restrictive on the free movement of goods would be more adequate, he wrote.
Eveline Van Keymeulen, a Paris-based attorney at Allen & Overy who represented the defendants in the case in question, a Czech exporter of vaping products that contained CBD - called the opinion “a crucial step towards much needed regulatory harmonization and legal certainty for the CBD industry in Europe.”
in a statement to the press, Van Keymeulen said, “It would not only require France to adapt its legislation in order to allow the marketing of CBD extracted from the entire hemp plant, but may also force other national regulators to (re)examine existing restrictions related to hemp-derived products in light of the free movement of goods in the EU.”
The role of the Court of Justice is to interpret EU law, making sure it is applied in the same way in all EU countries, and to settle any legal disputes among national governments and EU institutions .