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CBD Is Not A Narcotic, States European High Court

Updated: May 25, 2023

European Court Says CBD Is Not A Narcotic: Paving The Way For The CBD Industry In Europe

The CBD industry in Europe can now take a deep sigh of relief after European HIgh Court rules that CBD is not a narcotic in the infamous Kanavape case in France. This ruling sets the stage for next month's European Commission to take a final stance on whether CBD should be regulated as a narcotic.

CBD Europe Legal

On Thursday, November 19th, 2020 five judges on the European Union top court in Luxembourg ruled that the entire hemp plant is not a narcotic under the international drug treaty. Meaning that CBD derived from hemp is subject to the European Union law on the free movement of goods among member European Union states. This landmark ruling can shift the way CBD extracts are produced and make Europe a major player in the industry.

What is the Kanavape Case?

The Infamous Kanvape case originated back in 2014 over the marketing of a CBD vape product whose contents were imported from the Czech Republic and sold in France. France is one of the top countries in Europe for the cultivation of hemp, however, they prohibit the marketing of products derived from the hemp flower or entire plant.

This ban allowed France to prosecute Kanavape for the marketing of hemp-derived CBD vaping products. However, the CBD used in the vapes was extracted from legally grown hemp cultivated in the Czech Republic. This type of prosecution contradicts the EU law on the free movement of goods.

CBD Vaping

The principle of the free movement of goods states that as long as products are not illegal and safe for consumption they can move freely among member states in the European Union. However, critics state that CBD, as an extract of cannabis, could be considered a narcotic using a literal interpretation of the 1961 UN treaty.

Yesterday, judges acknowledged that using a literal interpretation of CBD, it would be considered a narcotic. However, the judges also pointed out that the official U.N. commentary on the treaty states that cannabis "is intrinsically linked to the state of scientific knowledge in terms of the harmfulness of cannabis-derived products to human health.” Since CBD does not contain psychoactive ingredients in the current state of scientific knowledge, it would not be considered a "drug" within the meaning of that convention as a cannabis extract. The judges ruled that "The CBD issue in the main proceedings is not a drug within the meaning of the single convention".

This favorable ruling, stating that CBD is not a drug now paves the way for the legal sale, production, and consumption of CBD products in the European Union.

What Does This Mean For France?

The judges found that France's ban on marketing CBD effectively imported a restriction of imports which is prohibited under EU law between member states. However, it is important to note that the court did state that CBD still could be banned in France on the grounds of public interest.

In order to do this judges stated that the French court must assess available scientific data on the safety and efficacy of CBD use and prove that it is a real risk to one's well-being. This is highly unlikely to happen, as the World Health Organization has already stated that CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential and generally well tolerated with a good safety profile.

CBD France

At this time it would be safe to conclude that CBD will become more readily available in France going forward.

What does this mean for the European CBD industry?

This landmark ruling deals a severe blow to efforts by some EU countries to limit the sale of CBD. While simultaneously giving the CBD industry in Europe a massive boost. At this time many products sold in the EU are in a legal grey area and this landmark ruling will start to bring them into legal marketplaces throughout the European Marketplace.

The Kannavape ruling paves the way for complete legalization of CBD in Europe, when the United Nations Commission on narcotic Drugs meets on December 2nd, 2020. It is important to note that almost always the commission follows the lead of the higher courts when dealing with similar issues.

The outcome of this case is arguably the biggest boost the CBD industry has seen in Europe to date. Now European CBD players will have to wait and see how the final ruling goes on December 2, 2020, in Vienna. However, the outcomes look promising for CBD to become fully legal throughout the European Union.

We expect that the European Commission will rule favorable, and CBD will start to become readily available throughout the European Union. If you are a store owner or brand looking to expand your product line, now is the perfect time to prepare by filling out our CBD wholesale application.


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