Europe’s top court has ruled that cannabidiol (CBD) is not a narcotic drug, a move which is a huge boost for CBD consumers across Europe.
The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) is the EU’s highest court. Judges were considering the legality of France’s current ban on CBD oil extracted from the whole plant in light of EU rules regarding the free movement of goods across member states. Additionally, the treatment of CBD under French law is under debate, which permits the use of only the fibre and seeds of the hemp plant.
On the 19th of November, the European Union Court of Justice ruled that CBD is not a narcotic, following the KanaVape case.
At the centre of the dispute was French duo Antonin Cohen and Sébastien Béguerie, the owners of KanaVape, an e-cigarette using a CBD oil made from hemp flowers and leaves imported from the Czech Republic. The Czech company that sold CBD to KanaVape extracted from the whole cannabis plant to use in electronic cigarette cartridges. However, French law allows extraction only from cannabis seeds and fibre — not the whole plant.
In 2014 the french authorities launched a legal dispute against the owners of KanaVape. And in 2018 presented them with a 16-month suspended sentence, and a 10,000 Euro fine, by Marseilles Criminal Court.
However, the Court of Appeal of Aix-en-Provence overturned this verdict in October of 2018. Due to the ruling potentially being uncompliant with the freedom of movement of goods of the European Union. When making his advisory ruling in May, the appointed ECJ Advocate General Evgeni Tanchev, concluded ‘that the provisions on the free movement of goods within the European Union are applicable, since the CBD at issue in the main proceedings cannot be regarded as a ‘narcotic drug’.
In the CJEU ruling, the court noted “A decision to prohibit the marketing of CBD, which indeed constitutes the most restrictive obstacle to trade in products lawfully manufactured and marketed in other [EU] Member States, can be adopted only if that risk appears sufficiently established”.
The court wrote that while countries can prohibit the free movement banned substances, this prohibition doesn’t apply to CBD – because the substance isn’t a narcotic drug.
While key U.N conventions do make reference to “cannabis extracts”, banning the sale of CBD under this classification would go against the “general spirit” of the conventions which aim to protect people’s health, as CBD “does not appear to have any psychotropic effect or any harmful effect on human health,” the court wrote.