Is CBD Legal in France

France is the biggest hemp producer in the European Union and CBD products became popular. EU certified hemp strains are legal to grow. France is a notable player in the worldwide hemp production, but the regulatory for utilisation of the plant curtails domestic producers. Only seeds and fibres are legal for further production. This sets limits for the production of higher concentrated CBD extracts.

Hemp is legal to grow in France if the plant is EU certified and has a maximum THC value of 0,2%. Cultivation is only allowed for the production of seeds and stalks. The maximum THC amount is valid for hemp plants but does not apply to finished products. End products need to be free from THC. The import and export of hemp and extracts is only permitted for industrial purposes. For this reason, isolate based products are the safest option in France.

To enforce national law, France banned the disposal of CBD products which are made out of flowers or other plant parts than stalks and seeds. Executing their own laws, it is under discussion if France violated European trade regulatory. In other EU countries the law allows the manufaction and distribution of CBD products extracted from other plant parts. With the selling restrictions France questions the European Single Market and the free movement of goods. This trade directive represents one of the fundamentals of the European Union. At the moment this question is subject to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).


The case Kanavape – CBD as subject to the ECJ

The company KanaVape sold CBD containing e-cigarettes in France. Their products were produced in the Czech Republic and the CBD was derived from the entire plant, using flowers and leaves. These e-cigarettes did not contain THC in critical amounts, but as France laws only allow the use of seeds and fibres, the KanaVape products were considered illegal. France authorities started a lawsuit against KanaVape owners. The defendants were sentenced to fines and suspended prison sentences following French narcotic laws.

After contestation the case was handed to the ECJ where it is currently investigated. EU Advocate General Evgeni Tanchev made a statement which is considered as an intermediate goal by the CBD industry. Tanchev concluded that “In the current state of scientific knowledge, it has not been established that cannabidiol oil has psychotropic effects” and “If CBD oil were to be considered a narcotic drug it would fall outside the scope” of European free trading regulations. In Tanchev’s view, this is not the case. Furthermore, he stated that, if French authorities want to ban CBD products, they first need to proof the “potentially negative consequences for health”.

A decision of the court is expected in September at the earliest. This will be a landmark decision for the whole CBD industry. Normally the ECJ follows the recommendation of the Advocate General. But before summer break, the European Commission acted against CBD foods ad supplements: They stopped all current Novel Food applications from CBD products.

Following a statement from the European Commission, their preliminary view is that CBD derived from flowers and fruit of the cannabis plant (Cannabis sativa L.) should be treated as narcotics under the 1961 United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. Due to this, the CBD industry is hold on stand-by until a decision is made.

The result depends on the outcome of two events: the KanaVape lawsuit at the ECJ or a decision of the UN in December. In December, the UN votes about a re-evaluation of the narcotic status of cannabis. With this election, the UN follows a request by the World Health Organisation. The WHO demanded in 2019 to withdraw cannabis from the list of dangerous substances.

Marketability of CBD products

Even though the regulations on CBD products are strict in France, their disposal is mostly tolerated. Products can be traded in a grey area which is similar to the situation in other European countries. CBD products can be found in online shops and in physical stores. Producers and distributors need to watch out for the legal situation but customers can buy without worries.

CBD oil

The French law is strict in regards to CBD oil. As the cannabis plant and their derived products are considered a narcotic, CBD products are only legal if they are derived from seeds or fibres of hemp plants. According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) CBD extracts are considered a Novel Food. This prohibits the use as a food, -ingredient or supplement, unless they are authorised and proofed to be safe.

In practice CBD oil is tolerated as long as there are no health claims made and the THC content remains below 0,2%. The sold products have to be intended for external use only. In favour of the customers, it is the producers and distributors part to take care of the regulatory.


CBD cosmetics

For CBD cosmetics the regulatory says the same as for other CBD products in France. They need to be free of THC, only derived from seeds and fibres and harvested from EU certified plants.

Effectively cosmetic products with CBD are tolerated and traded in France too. They are tolerated like CBD oil under the condition the THC amount does not exceed the 0,2% percent border.


CBD vaping products

Liquids for e-cigarettes were problematic and made up the KanaVape case. CBD vaping liquids face the same strict regulations as other CBD products in France. But at the moment they are tolerated too, under the same limitations. They can be found on- and offline in many shops around the country.

CBD flowers

The consumption of CBD flowers can be problematic as it is difficult to distinguish them from regular cannabis. Officially the sell and utilisation of CBD flowers is prohibited in France. There have been raids on stores selling CBD flowers in France. Nevertheless, the sale of CBD flowers is currently partially tolerated, but users have to watch out when buying and consuming said products.


CBD products are available in France. Customers can purchase CBD oils, creams and other products without fear of penalties. The laws are tough but at the moment CBD products are tolerated. Through Frances push for strict regulations, the topic became subject to European authorities. This opens the possibility for an even legal landscape in the EU.

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