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CJEU rules that CBD is not a narcotic drug
At a glance
The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has ruled that cannabidiol (CBD) is not a narcotic drug. Companies who produce CBD lawfully in a Member State, extracted from the whole Cannabis sativa plant and not just the fibre and seeds, cannot be prohibited from marketing the CBD in another Member State.
The Kanavape case:
Catlab SAS (Catlab), a Czech company, sought to market an electronic cigarette in France that contained CBD legally extracted in the Czech Republic where extraction from the whole cannabis sativa plant is permitted. However, French law only allows the marketing and sale of CBD products if the CBD came from the fibre and seeds of an approved low strength hemp plant containing not more than 0.2% THC.
The CJEU was asked to consider whether the French prohibition on using the leaves and flowers of hemp plants was incompatible with EU law on the free movement of goods. Member States can restrict the distribution of narcotic substances falling within the meaning in the UN Single Convention and the CJEU therefore considered whether CBD is a narcotic drug.
It was determined that CBD is not a narcotic drug since, inter alia: i) there was no clear evidence that CBD would harm human health; ii) the CBD in this case was lawfully produced in the Czech Republic; and iii) the widely accepted scientific position is that CBD does not contain a psychoactive ingredient.
The CJEU’s decision is a breakthrough for the CBD industry, as it is likely to impact Novel Foods applications, which have recently been halted by the European Commission due to uncertainty as to whether CBD is a narcotic. The ruling by the CJEU that CBD is not a narcotic drug is likely to mean that these applications can be re-opened and progressed.
The rules surrounding THC levels in the end products differs across the Member States, UK Home Office policy is that CBD may not contain any controlled cannabinoids (such as THC).
CEO Nick Davis commented “The legal and regulatory uncertainty around classification of CBD is making it hard for high quality companies to raise funds to grow their businesses. The CJEU’s decision is hopefully a step in the right direction for the industry. This makes the European Commission’s proposal to classify CBD as a narcotic difficult to pursue. We hope that the European Commission will follow this decision and restart the Novel Food application process.”
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