Judges in the Court of Justice of the European Union are set to rule today, on the legality of hemp-derived CBD in France, in a case that will have significant impact on the wider European hemp industry.
Today’s rulings, in proceedings that have become known as the Kanavape case, are highly anticipated due to the implications for the ongoing debate surrounding CBD regulation across Europe. It will have a significant impact on upcoming deliberations that will see the European Commission take a final stance on whether flower-derived CBD should be regulated as a narcotic.
The ruling comes two weeks before a December vote by the U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs on the way cannabis and related substances are scheduled in two international narcotics treaties. According to a report from Hemp Industry Daily, one of those treaties – the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961) – has come under scrutiny of the EU court in deliberating the Kanavape case.
The Kanavape case originated from a 2014 dispute in France over the marketing of a CBD vape product whose contents were imported from the Czech Republic. French authorities decided to prosecute Sébastien Béguerie and Antonin Cohen for marketing a hemp-derived CBD vaping product under the brand Kanavape, in France, where the marketing of products derived from the hemp flower, or the entire plant, is prohibited.
The CBD used in Béguerie’s and Cohen’s Kanavape product, however, was extracted from legally-grown Czech hemp. This led a French appeals court judge to forward the case to the EU Court of Justice, asking if France’s restriction on hemp products violated the bloc’s free-movement principle.
According to Hemp Industry Daily, in May, the Advocate General, an adviser to the top court, suggested that France’s ban on the marketing of hemp-derived CBD products contradicted EU law on the free movement of goods.
Crucially, this non-binding opinion was based on the Advocate General’s understanding that the free-movement principle applies because hemp-derived CBD is not classified as a narcotic drug under that 1961 United Nations treaty.
The Kanavape case, hinges on the interpretation of this long standing narcotics treaty which has been disputed by hemp stakeholders and regulators.
The European court judges will be deciding whether to uphold the Advocate General’s position that supports the free movement of cannabidiol, in Europe, or to take the position that according to the 1961 treaty the compound should be treated as a narcotic and therefore should not be allowed.
Hemp and CBD stakeholders will be hoping that the court takes a favourable approach towards CBD, in what looks set to be the first in a run of upcoming legal decisions that ultimately could decide the future fate of CBD in Europe.