FRENCH authorities have implemented a new ‘temporary framework’ for CBD allowing it to be registered and sold as a food supplement for the first time.
According to the proponents of the new framework, this development will significantly expand opportunities for CBD businesses in the country, opening the door for products to be sold with confidence by France’s largest retailers and pharmacies.
However, others have suggested this presents the latest assault on full-spectrum CBD and hemp in France, and represents an effort to not only push the industry towards one dominated by isolate CBD, but to one centred around an agro-industry focused solely on profits.
The new framework
As of February 24, 2023, French CBD businesses have been able to register their products as a food supplement with the Directorate General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Prevention (DGCCRF) for the first time.
This new framework is a temporary measure reportedly designed to provide some stability for CBD businesses until the The European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) novel foods regulation is completed.
According to the Union of Industrialists for the Valorization of Hemp Extracts (UIVEC), a French CBD trade group which says it has more than 50 members most of which ‘are not people from the cannabis industry’, this marks the culmination of an ‘18 month negotiation with the French authorities’.
The group is understood to have presented a plan for such a framework to both politicians and regulatory bodies last year, before it was validated by the Ministry of Economy and Finance and brought into force.
It draws many parallels with the UK’s ‘public list’, which enables CBD products already on the market before a certain date to remain on sale while the novel foods validation process is completed.
UIVEC’s President Ludovic Rachou told Business of Cannabis: “It’s not regulation, per se, it’s more of a control strategy of what is allowed to remain on the market and what is going to be removed from the market by the French authorities.”
Rather than write up new regulations which would become defunct when EFSA’s novel foods process eventually concludes, this framework will enable CBD edibles to be sold in France legally until such a time, and provide clarity for consumers and businesses.
However, the requirements for products to be approved as a food supplement allow for effectively no THC content, meaning any full spectrum CBD extracts are effectively excluded.
CBD products must contain THC content of less than 1 µg/kg body weight (acute reference dose), in line with EFSA’s current recommendations.
Isolate and broad spectrum products which come under these dosage levels must also contain less the 20% CBD, or a daily dose of 50mg.
“That means that any products on the market that are above this concentration would be removed in the coming months by the authorities,” Mr Rachou added.
Given the current lack of enforcement in the sector, industry sources have cast doubt on whether this can be assured.
France’s CBD industry is one of the largest in Europe, and according to Prohibition Partner’s European CBD Report, is expected to grow by 20% this year, but this could significantly increase with wider distribution.
UIVEC believes the key untapped area for growth in CBD is in food and cosmetics, rather than areas like flower.
“We have 25,000 independent pharmacies, and about two thirds of them are actually selling CBD. So it’s been a pretty massive increase if you think about the same picture two years ago… It’s been a major change in the retail landscape in France.
“We think that the CBD edible market in France is around €200 to €300 million right now, and it’s been growing steadily.
“When you sell edibles, you’re selling to a much larger audience and are actually increasing sales in these categories. And sales of flower are actually going down.”
Mr Rachou argues that both major retailers like E. Leclerc and Carrefour and the extensive network of pharmacies are now much more likely to expand their CBD sales due to the reduced regulatory risk.
Furthermore, he adds that this could create a boon for locally sourced CBD ‘which is not the case right now because everything is coming from the US or Eastern Europe, with a number of contracts with large retailers and local hemp producers currently in the works.
‘Little to no change for businesses’
UIVEC’s opinion is not shared throughout the French CBD industry however.
At a recent symposium for French medical cannabis and CBD, attended by Mr Rachou and a number of other prominent industry stakeholders, Newsweed reports that the French Association of Cannabinoid Producers (AFPC) argued strongly against the move.
The AFPC argued that the transfer of CBD as a food supplement ‘aims to kill the organic sector and the agricultural sector of active hemp, even if it means promoting the import of CBD isolate from the US and eastern European countries’, adding that France would also struggle to remain competitive on price given the low price of isolate CBD internationally.
Another French industry stakeholder told Business of Cannabis that the move changes little for French CBD businesses and is ‘neither an obligation nor useful’.
Benjamin-Alexandre Jeanroy of Paris-based cannabis consultancy Augur Associates questioned UIVEC’s figures regarding the size of the CBD edible market, and suggested that the group’s efforts to ban CBD flower had sent the industry back by years.
“They tried to forbid the sale of flowers for a long time, and now that they have failed, they keep putting their influence towards reducing the size of the number of actors that can partake in the market.”