Leading judge hears industry arguments against French ban on hemp flower sales

The first public hearing has been held on the industry challenge against the French government decree creating a regulatory framework for CBD products but also confirming that the ban on selling hemp flower as an end-product would continue.

The initial public hearing, on 14th January, was presided over by Judge Suzanne Von Coester in France’s highest court, the Council of State in central Paris, with CBD-Intel in attendance. Valérie Saintoyant represented the French government as chief of operations of  the Inter-Ministerial Mission against Drugs and Addictive Behaviours (MILDECA). A range of solicitors and groups represented the CBD industry’s interests, among them Charles Morel, chairman of the Union of CBD professionals, Aurélien Delecroix, president of the Hemp Union, and counsel, Cédric Uzan Sarano.

Initial arguments covered much of the same ground as presented during the consultation period on the decree. The CBD industry warned that confirming a blanket ban on hemp flower as an end consumer product would have a devastating impact on the industry.

Morel told the judge: “I have several accounting documents which prove that CBD flower represents two-thirds of many shopkeepers’ revenue. My client used to sell CBD herbal tea to major supermarkets such as Carrefour.”

Judge Coester questioned the CBD industry as to the current size of the hemp flower market given the rules currently in place. Delecroix estimated that it was “€300m to €400m currently, but it could go up to €1bn in a mature market”.

 

‘Let’s ban cigarettes!’

 

Representatives said the French government’s justifications for continuing the ban did not stand up. They said banning the sale of flowers because of an adverse public health impact from them being a smokable product was unreasonable they said.

“They want to ban CBD flowers because they can be smoked. So let’s ban cigarettes! Also, you ban flowers but you legalise hemp extracts. So, madam judge, the government is saying: ‘orange juice is fine, but oranges are narcotics’,” said Sarano.

Similarly, public order justifications did not hold water, industry representatives said. Initial difficulties for police in judging the difference between a legal hemp flower product and an illegal cannabis flower product under a regime that permitted hemp flowers were only a minor annoyance, they said.

They reminded the judge that rapid tests exist for determining THC content – although they are not in use in France for the moment. However, they could be used fairly quickly to sort out any difficulties in policing cannabis and completely banning hemp flower as a product because of the minor inconvenience and cost of doing so was a disproportionate response.

The hearing continues.

Benjamin Boukriche CBD-Intel contributing writer

Photo: Pierre Blaché

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