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European Round-Up: France’s CESE Calls For End To ‘Bitter Failure’ Of Cannabis Prohibition, Clever Leaves and Tilray Slash Portuguese Operations, & More From Czechia & Germany

FRANCE’s Economic, Social and Environmental Council (CESE) has released a ‘draft opinion’ calling for the legalisation of cannabis. 

On Tuesday, January 24, 2023, during a plenary assembly, CESE revealed its draft opinion based on ten months of research and hearings, Newsweed.fr reported. 

The document, dubbed ‘Cannabis: moving away from the status quo, towards regulated legalisation’, makes the case that cannabis prohibition from the point of view of public health is ‘generally ineffective, in particular among young consumers who are increasingly exposed to uncontrolled products’. 

It references the ‘bitter failure of the policy followed for fifty years’, and suggests the supervised production, distribution and consumption of cannabis be legalised in France, citing case studies in Canada, Malta and Germany. 

CESE suggests that, as a first step, decriminalisation should be brought in, seeing cannabis cultivation and social clubs legalised, with further work to be conducted around how drivers are tested for cannabis consumption in an effort to prevent those with trace amounts of THC in their system from being penalised. 

As is becoming an increasing focus across Europe, CESE says the project should prioritise ‘public health objectives’ while also attempting to shift consumers away from the black market. 

Furthermore, it says that the THC limits on hemp should be raised to 1% in an effort to enable the expansion of cannabis research. 

While France has recently made some positive steps in terms of cannabis liberalisation, seeing the country’s Council of State overturn government efforts to ban the sale of CBD flowers, there is still understood to be significant opposition to cannabis reform. 

Benjamin-Alexandre Jeanroy, of Paris-based cannabis consultancy Augur Associates, recently told BusinessCann that he believes the government’s blanket anti-drugs stance has not changed and that they will ‘do their best to complicate things in future, so we are far from safe for now’. 

This means the recommendations of the CESE, which advises the lawmaking bodies of France but does not play a role in the adoption of statutes and regulations, may have an uphill battle before leading to anything concrete. 

Clever Leaves pulls out of Portugal amid further turmoil across its cannabis industry

This week Clever Leaves announced its departure from the Portuguese market, seeing it sack 63 workers and ‘wind down’ all operations in the country, thought to be worth over US$12m. 

The move represents a dramatic turnaround for the company, which just two months ago announced the receipt of EU GMP certification for the manufacture of cannabis APIs at its Portuguese facility. 

At the time, Clever Leaves said this certification would bolster its ‘commitment to supporting other cannabis companies in the region’. 

The company says that the divestment of its operations in Portugal was ‘part of its ongoing restructuring initiatives’, and that the move would save the company around $7m in ‘gross annualised run rate savings to be realised’ this year. 

However, Clever Leaves says that shutting down its Portuguese operations will incur charges of between $19m and $21m, including nearly $1m in severance packages for the 63 terminated employees and a further $12m related to ‘real estate and equipment costs’. 

In its most recent quarterly results, in which it reported a loss of $20m in the three months to September 30, 2022, Clever Leaves reported ‘Portugal debt’ of €1m from a ‘local lender under the terms of its credit line agreement’. 

The news came just days after Canadian cannabis giant Tilray announced plans to terminate nearly a quarter of its staff in Portugal. 

Meanwhile, Portuguese cannabis publication Cannareporter broke the story that VF1883 Pharmaceuticals, a company producing medicinal cannabis based in Benavente, was declared insolvent by the Court of Santarém.

According to the insolvency documents seen exclusively by Cannareporter, the company has now been appointed an administrator and has more than 80 creditors, including individuals, companies, and entities such as the tax authority. 

Germany & Czechia to release key documents in March

German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach and the Federal Ministry of Health (BMG) have tasked the Institute for Interdisciplinary Addiction and Drug Research (ISD Hamburg) to provide an expert opinion and scientifically examine the country’s planned cannabis legalisation. 

As Germany continues to draw up its draft legal proposals to present to the European Commission by March, Mr Lauterbach hopes that this report will support its case and help ‘scientifically underpin the coalition project’. 

According to Deutsches Ärzteblatt, for the report, due by the end of March, ISD Hamburg has been given eight key focal points to address, which include consumption, road traffic, aspects of dependency, protection of minors and the effects on the illegal drug trade.

Meanwhile Czechia is also due to publish its draft legislation on cannabis legalisation by the end of March, in what is expected to be a major step forward for the country’s project. 

According to ČTK, Czechia’s national anti-drug coordinator Jindřich Vobořil, described as the ‘locomotive’ driving rapid cannabis reform in the country, wants the outlines of the law to be submitted over the next two months. 

David Hluštík, from the government department for the coordination of anti-drug policy, said that the draft will include plans for taxation, legal cultivation, the functioning of cannabis clubs, and licences, sales and exports. 

The expert group pulling together this legal framework is understood to have met last week, with the next meeting due to take place in early February, with plans for coalition politicians to be able to discuss the proposals ‘in the spring’. 

“My ambition still remains for us to eventually have the law in effect in 2024,” Mr Vobořil said.

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