In a landmark ruling for the CBD industry in Europe, the European Court of Justice has determined that CBD should not be considered a narcotic under the 1961 UN Convention. Further, the EU’s highest court stated, in its ruling, that CBD “does not appear to have any psychotropic effect or any harmful effect on human health”.
The decision is a significant boost to the CBD industry as it provides the first step towards legal recognition of hemp-derived CBD products across Europe.
The European Court ruling said that while CBD could technically have been included in the legislation set out in the UN convention, banning CBD would be “contrary to the general spirit of that convention and to its objective of protecting ‘the health and welfare of mankind’”. Furthermore, the court ruled that EU states cannot ban the marketing of CBD legally produced in another member state unless a risk to public health “appears sufficiently established”.
As we have reported previously, the ruling was made in relation to the prosecution in France of KanaVape, a company that exports CBD oil made from whole hemp plants.
Under French law, only the fibre and seeds of hemp – a variety of the cannabis plant containing less than 0.2% of the psychoactive cannabinoid THC – may be put to commercial use, not the flower.
The court ruled that the French ban on the marketing of hemp-derived CBD products contradicted EU law on the free movement of goods.
“The national court must assess available scientific data in order to make sure that the real risk to public health alleged does not appear to be based on purely hypothetical considerations,” the court detailed.
“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 Judges also noted that two key UN conventions classifying illegal drug do not specifically mention CBD, although they mention “cannabis extracts”.
Within the EU, it is now likely that all nations will accept the marketing of CBD produced not only from hemp seeds and stalks but from leaves and flowers, as is the case with the products of Kanavape.
The ruling will also likely influence the European member states when it comes to an upcoming UN vote on the classification of cannabis in international law. Previously the position of many countries in was to vote against declassification of CBD, however with this ruling it is possible that this will be sufficient to change opinions.
Commenting in the UK’s Guardian newspaper, Robert Jappie, a partner at the law firm Ince, said the ruling was “a big win” for the CBD industry.
“By confirming that there was no scientific evidence to suggest that CBD has a harmful effect on the human body, the court has made it very difficult for the European commission to pursue their proposed classification of CBD as a narcotic,” he said.
It will also be hoped that Novel Food processes, which had previously been suspended across Europe, will now be able to go ahead. There are already over fifty companies with applications ‘in limbo’ that would be able to move ahead if suitable changes are implemented following the EU court’s ruling.