FRANCE is wholly reliant on imported products to satisfy the demands of its domestic CBD consumers – despite being Europe’s largest hemp producer.
However, two French entrepreneurs are looking to change this and turn France into the one of the world’s most open and compliant cannabis markets.
Aurélien Bernard and Benjamin-Alexandre Jeanroy, are key supporters of the emerging French Medical Cannabis and Wellness Hemp Union (SPC).
They believe 2020 will be a pivotal year, as they lead on moves to change the country’s laws.
The first prong of this attack has already being achieved with the opening of a Mission of Information (MoI) at the French parliament.
Mr Jeanroy explained: “This is quite huge; it will concern every use of cannabis with the initial investigation starting in January looking at the country’s CBD and wellness industries, which we hope will act as a pre-cursor to legal changes.
“Before, CBD wellness was not recognised, it’s a grey area. We are preparing a White Paper for the administration officials on CBD and how it could be regulated outside of the medical market.”
Mr Bernard continued: “Previously CBD was under the radar but we are confident of seeing the creation of acceptable regulations that will allow for the processing and extracting of CBD in France.”
The SPC has over 60 members, from every part of the value chain, including national and international players. It recently submitted a White Paper to the Government on medical cannabis.
The duo hope that the MoI will prompt rapid change in the CBD market, and also help establish recognised boundaries between France’s three existing cannabis sectors.
Mr Bernard said: “There is a current conflict in the three different markets; the illegal recreational market which is bound by narcotic law, the emerging medical market and CBD wellness.
“Our aim is for the MoI to acknowledge the differences between these three and shape the requisite regulations.
“Over the last year there has been a growing interest in cannabis, where previously it has been under the radar, with little recognition.”
“This needs to change that and we are fairly confident that will happen by mid 2020.”
This new openness follows years of intransigence from the authorities, which has seen hundreds of high street CBD wellness stores raided, and closed down by the police.
Mr Jeanroy said: “While there are specialist shop selling CBD products, edibles and flowers, they are not mainstream like in the UK – they are not found in the supermarkets.
“Demand is really strong, but last summer there were raids on CBD flower shops, so they have moved from bricks and mortar to online and delivery.”
Before the raids there were some 250 shops but the raids targeted some 100 outlets, the two described its as a ‘big blowback’, with the scale of the clampdown varying between regions.
Describing how things are in France, right now, Mr Bernard said: “CBD is like THC weed, you can find it everywhere, buy it everywhere, but it is not a regulated sector, and that is why the hemp union (SPC) was created. We want a regulated market to provide clarity for entrepreneurs.”
They hope that the introduction of industry-friendly CBD regulations, will be accompanied by the scrapping of archaic rules which mean the nation’s hemp growers cannot sell their flowers in the domestic market.
Mr Bernard said: “CBD is legal in France, but we cannot use the hemp flowers and the market is largely unregulated.
“Our CBD is imported from China, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and the Unites States and the large majority of products are made elsewhere.
“But, it’s quite simple what needs to be done. It’s simply a matter of changing two words in an administrative directive; two words that simply need to be erased, the ones which directly say that only hemp ‘fibres’ and ‘seeds’ are allowed in the industrial process.
“This will allow our flowers to be used, free the hemp-growing industry from its shackles and allow foreign companies to establish businesses and distribution partners in a more tranquil environment.”
The CBD White Paper will also include proposals to go past the existing 0.2% THC limit in seeds to the 1% THC level recognised by their Swiss neighbours.
As things stand the only market the regulators engage in is in relation to e-liquids, linked to nicotine vaporisation, and the now notorious Kannavape case.
This six-year court case over the legitimacy of the hemp flowers is due to be resolved by the European Court of Justice in the next few months.
The duo are both associates of the parties involved in this case, which could have significant implications if it acknowledges that French courts can regulate the use of the cannabis flower at variance to the European Union.
It also has ramifications on the free movement of goods amongst the European Union’s 28 member states, and the validity of Novel Food regulations.
They believe the French authorities are waiting for the outcome of the Kannavape case, and the results of the MoI before they decide how to deal with CBD and the Novel Food issue.
And they both support the position of those in Europe, such as the European Industrial Hemp Association, who argue that CBD is not a Novel Food.
Mr Jeanroy said: “CBD is not a novelty. The EIHA strategy which recognises a distinction between naturally occurring levels of cannabinoids in extracts, and isolates is the right way forward, and is in fact a nice tool for a global approach to developing CBD regulations.”
France is set to launch a two-year medical cannabis trial this year and the developing CBD wellness sector shows signs that it may be about to see the dawning of a new era for its legal cannabis industries.
Thousands of French patients are set to benefit from a two-year medical cannabis trial launching this year.
This will include those suffering from pain, epilepsy patients, multiple sclerosis and those suffering from the side effects of chemotherapy.