CBD in full bloom

Even as the market explodes, the French “wellness” cannabis industry suffers from very restrictive regulations preventing it from developing.

© Ilan Deutsch

Hemp (or cannabis, in Latin) has long been used for making ropes, for building insulation, for the textile industry, for gardening … But it also has three other, more contested uses: cannabis “” recreational ”, prohibited for sale (the THC molecule has psychotropic and addictive effects), therapeutic cannabis (already widely used, especially in the United States) and finally“ well-being ”hemp, cannabidiol, or CBD , with relaxing and non-narcotic properties. In a few years, or even a few months, the latter has established itself: chewing gum, herbal teas, food supplements, mayonnaise, oils, cosmetics, drinks, including beer and even bordeaux! In France, according to the figures, there are today between 800 and 1,800 specialist shops, about twice as many as a year ago. And they are no longer the only ones to sell it: between 3,000 and 6,000 tobacconists sell it, such as electronic cigarette stores, supermarkets, pharmacies, and even a few restaurants – pastry chef Philippe Conticini is a fan. Specialized magazines were born, a CBD trade fair made its appearance this year, stars, such as singer Mika, are investing in or promoting this business: Kim Kardashian has chosen CBD as the theme of her fourth “baby shower”. “…

French regulations, the most restrictive in Europe, favor synthetic CBD, produced mainly by China and the United States

And yet, for nearly 95%, French products are imported. Not that we don’t know how to do it. With 17,900 hectares, France is the leading producer of hemp in Europe and fourth in the world, behind China, the United States and Canada. It is cultivated for its seeds (which are eaten) and stems – but not the flower, the cultivation, processing and sale of which is prohibited. “The French regulations, the most restrictive in Europe, promote synthetic CBD, produced mainly by China and the United States”, deplores Charles Morel, president of the Union of CBD professionals. The conclusions of the report of the parliamentary mission seized on the subject last year are final: the rise of cannabidiol is being slowed down, it is written, “by totally unsuitable regulations”. A “situation all the more regrettable and incomprehensible as it completely prevents the development of a French sector”, even though, adds the report, “France is in a position to acquire a dominant position in Europe”.

Also read.CBD: The New Plant Grail?

A legal battle is underway, but the new government decree, still unpublished, does not solve the problems. “It does not authorize the sale of the raw flower,” recalls Nathalie Fichaux, director of Inter-Chanvre, the inter-professional organization. And to produce it, you must first have a contract with an industrialist who will transform it. ” However, 70% of the turnover of specialized shops come from the sale of raw flowers – banned by France but authorized by the European Union … Everyone benefits from this legal vagueness, which fuels a “laissez-faire little” conducive to the serene development of the sector, ”adds Ludovic Rachou, president of the Union des Industriels pour la valorization des extracts de hemp. Behind the scenes, the battle rages on to try to relax the regulations. But the presidential election is not conducive to a major rule change. However, the stakes are detailed: according to the European Industrial Hemp Association, the CBD market could represent 3 to 3.5 billion euros on the continent in 2023-2025 – against 130 million in 2019.

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