For many years, France was the only European country to allow hemp cultivation. And with the surge in popularity CBD oil has experienced in France over the last few years, it would be nearly impossible to not have heard about hemp and CBD at this point.
However, while a growing number of French people are aware of hemp and CBD and the fact that they may offer some exciting natural health benefits, many continue to be confused as to whether buying, selling, and using hemp and CBD are legal in France.
Below, you can learn more about whether hemp and CBD are legal in France, as well as the particular regulations that French authorities and the European Union have in place regarding the plant and its compounds. You’ll also learn what legal CBD products and legal hemp products are available, and some suggestions on how to make sure you only buy or sell products that are safe and high quality.
France is the leading Hemp producer in Europe
Is hemp legal in France? Yes– France, which has been cultivating hemp for centuries, is today one of the world’s largest hemp producers. In fact, the French Republic is third in the world when it comes to growing hemp, positioned only behind China and Canada, and possibly the USA, however it is uncertain at this point how much of the newly surged CBD production derives from plants that would count as industrial hemp according to European regulations.
No other European country plants as much hemp as France, which grew roughly 17,899 hectares in 2018. To give you an idea of how much more hemp France grows than other European countries: Italy and the Netherlands, which are second and third in hemp surface area, grew 4,000 and 3,833 hectares of hemp in 2018, respectively.
The French government’s stance on Hemp & CBD
Despite France’s long history in hemp cultivation, the country has more strict regulations on growing hemp than other European countries. Varieties grown must be listed on the French catalog and they must contain no more than 0.2% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). France currently only allows general products that are below 0.2% THC, and at 0% THC for food products.
In France, only hemp’s fibers and seeds can be used. While at the European Union level, hemp flowers can be legally used to produce products, France prohibits the use of hemp flowers, because it has a more rigid interpretation of the United Nations’ Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs from 1961.
While France’s hemp regulations are more restricted compared to the European catalog, CBD products that are made from hemp and contain no detectable amounts of THC are legal to buy, sell, and use in France.
So, “Is hemp and CBD legal in France?” To succinctly answer the question, yes!
Hemp & CBD legality EU & France
The laws on CBD and hemp that are on the books in France do differ from those determined by the European Union. For one, at the EU level, the use of hemp flowers to manufacture wellness products like CBD oil is authorized. In France, it is not. This means that French CBD product developers are unable to legally use supplies from French-grown hemp flowers that naturally contain higher amounts of CBD.
Secondly, in France you can legally buy and sell hemp-derived CBD oil, provided it contains no measurable amounts of THC.
The legality of CBD oil in France is also covered by the EU’s free movement of goods, which is meant to create an internal market within the union. This principle essentially dictates that products that originate or are placed lawfully in any of the union’s member states can be freely sold and used in all the other member states. It makes it clear– CBD is legal in the EU.
ECJ court rules CBD not a Narcotic
The legality of CBD in France was further solidified only recently after a landmark decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).
In 2020 November, the European Union’s highest court made the groundbreaking ruling that CBD is not a narcotic and therefore falls under EU law on the free movement of goods among member states.
The positive decision came in a French case against a Czech company which sold CBD extracted from the whole hemp plant. French authorities argued that under French law, only hemp fiber and seeds, not the plant’s flowers, could be used for the commercial production of hemp and CBD products. The court disagreed, basing its judgment on two international conventions that govern global drug control and national drug laws: the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances.
Because CBD is non-psychoactive and shows no harmful effects to human health, the court said in its decision, the French ban contradicted European laws on the free movement of goods.
This ruling was a turning point for the entire CBD market and future of the industry, not only in France but throughout Europe.
Legal Medicine vs Food Supplement – French Laws
In France, CBD products that are made from hemp and contain no detectable levels of THC are considered a food supplement and legal to buy and use. These hemp CBD products are generally found in the form of oils and liquids, and are widely used on a daily basis to naturally encourage better health.
A parliamentary report published 2021 February called for changes in French law to allow even lighter regulation for hemp CBD products. Crafted by 33 MPs, the report is the result of a roughly month and a half long fact-finding mission that explored all of hemp’s beneficial uses. The authors of the report specifically criticized the law prohibiting the use of hemp flowers, which they claim has prevented the country’s CBD market from truly taking off. They also called for improvements to guarantee CBD product safety, and proposed raising the threshold of THC to 0.6% or even 1% so that it’s more in line with other European countries.
Hemp CBD products are not considered a legal medicine by French authorities. The country is in the process of establishing a regulated medical cannabis pilot program, which will eventually be accessible to patients with certain qualifying conditions. These products that will be available as part of this program will be made from marijuana, rather than hemp, and will contain higher levels of THC.
CBD vs THC
CBD and THC are the two most well-known cannabinoids of the more than 100 total cannabinoids that are found in cannabis plants, like hemp. While the two popular compounds both influence the body and its functions by interacting with the endocannabinoid system, they have distinct differences in the effects they have and what they’re used for.
CBD, short for cannabidiol, is non-psychoactive, or non-intoxicating, which means it does not elicit any type of euphoric effects when ingested. CBD is generally sold in the form of CBD oils, extracts, and other supplements that people use to support their endocannabinoid system for general wellness.
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is psychoactive and therefore will create euphoric sensations or the feeling of a “high” when consumed in high enough amounts. THC is generally used for these euphoric effects and is generally found in the illegal form of cannabis flower.
Third Party CBD testing
If you’re buying or selling CBD products in France, third-party CBD testing should be top of mind. An independent, third-party testing process ensures that CBD products contain the levels of CBD and other cannabinoids that are listed on the label, and that they’re free of any type of contaminants that could adversely affect the quality and safety of the product.
Hemp is naturally a bioaccumulator, which means it absorbs both bad and good materials from its surroundings, including water, air, and soil. A third party testing lab will check to see whether any mold, mildew, fungus, yeast, E.Coli, Salmonella, mycotoxins, heavy metals, or residual solvents have made their way into the CBD oil.
In short, when third party CBD testing is in place, you can be sure that the CBD product that you buy or sell in France is reliable and safe.
Are You Buying CBD?
The demand for CBD is growing in France and throughout the entire European Union. If you’re looking to buy CBD and other legal hemp products in France, you’re likely to have some questions.
First, if you’ve asked yourself, “Is CBD legal in France?” You’ll be happy to know that, yes– CBD products are legal to buy in France, provided they come from hemp rather than marijuana, and contain no detectable amounts of THC.
You also may be wondering whether the CBD products you buy could get stuck in customs. To reduce the chance of any delivery issues when buying CBD in France, we highly recommend that you only purchase CBD from a respected and reputable manufacturer.
To identify the right CBD supplier, make sure that the manufacturer you’re considering meets the following criteria:
- Only produces CBD products containing 0.02% THC or less
- Has in place a rigorous, third-party testing process to ensure the cannabinoid content and safety of their products
- Offers a comprehensive list of ingredients in their products
- Are members of the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA), the only consortium in the hemp sector in Europe
- Does not make irresponsible medical claims about CBD
Are you Selling CBD?
If you’re someone who is already selling CBD in France, or perhaps hoping to seize on the growing market to sell CBD in France, there are some considerations to keep in mind. First, you want to make sure that you’re always being responsible with your marketing efforts. This means avoiding making any sort of medical claims about the CBD products that you’re selling. While it’s true that there are many stories online and in the French media of people who have had positive experiences with CBD, it’s important to avoid touting hemp oils and CBD oils as having the capability to cure any type of condition. In France, CBD sellers cannot legally make claims that CBD or CBD oil has healing properties, and French authorities have even cracked down on several CBD sellers who tried to do so.
Second, while the CBD and hemp oil industry continues to grow in France, you could face obstacles and complexities as you embark on your own business. For one, many merchants, online shops, and payment providers are not yet keen on working with a CBD company. It can take a fair amount of time to find a merchant to help you manage the financial aspect of your business and convince shops to carry your products. Thankfully, there are existing and approved solutions available, including Kannaway. Kannaway is an already-established and well-respected CBD company that can help you launch your own CBD business and get off to a strong start.