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The European Court Of Justice Throws Down On Hemp

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Apart from the Herculean task of normalization of cannabis generally, the battle for regulatory definitions over hemp has definitely taken some strange twists and turns of late. May the Hemp Be With You. Certainly within the EU.

After regulators in Brussels last year declared the hemp plant (leaves and flowers) to actually be “novel,” (which the British Food Safety standards, sadly seem to indicate they will follow), a bevy of lawsuits began appearing in all the strangest places. The proverbial “Little Gaulish Village” was determined to fight.

This May, it appears that one legal skirmish may have actually (excuse the pun) born fruit. If not challenged the (Brussels) “Evil Empire.”

The Legal Skinny

Here is the overview. A company named Kanavape, whose CBD was extracted from hemp in the Czech Republic (in accordance with both Czech and EU law), exported their products to France in 2014. They were prosecuted in a country where the only thing that is legit is the plant’s fiber and seeds (products made from the entire plant or flower are outlawed and have been even before regulators in Brussels changed the catalogue for Novel Food, apparently to reflect the French interpretation of the same as of 2019).

However, like the plucky Gaulish village of the resistance (Asterix anyone?), these Czech cannapreneurs have appealed all the way through the French court of Appeals in Aix-en-Provence, to the European Union’s Court of Justice. The principle at stake? Whether France’s restriction on hemp products violated the free movement of goods principle – a critical part of the EU covenant itself.

Ding, Ding, Knockout For CBD?

According to the Court of Justice’s advocate general’s decision last week, hemp-derived CBD (even from the flowers and leaves of the plant) is not a narcotic. Ergo, it is protected by the EU’s free movement principle. Per the Advocate General Evgeni Tanchev, the French CBD ban is not appropriate or proportionate for the purpose of protecting public health.

While Tanchev’s opinion, like in fact, all of the dictates on Novel Food of late from Brussels, are not “legally binding,” this case may in fact, finally normalize if not overturn the increasingly tortured legal logic on the same emanating from Brussels. Namely that hemp, a plant used in Europe for thousands of years, is somehow “novel.” At least when its flowers and leaves are used in anything edible. Seeds apparently are still excluded?

Stay tuned. This case may in fact have a huge and positive effect on the overall hemp industry, as well as rolling back some very strange decisions of late at nosebleed, regional levels and finally reinvigorate a hemp industry that is, along with being a rather vital potion, ready to bust out all over.

For an update on the moving target that is the EU’s hemp industry, be sure to book your tickets to the International Cannabis Business Conference Virtual Cannabis Symposium that is taking place on June 9, 2020