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Landmark case: EU says CBD is not a narcotic

In a far reaching judgement, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has cleared the way for the free movement of CBD products throughout the European Union (EU). 

In a ruling on 19 November 2020, the ECJ said CBD was not a narcotic and that EU states could not ban CBD products legally produced in another EU country.

The case arose from the prosecution of French company Kanavape, which had been charged with importing vaporiser cartridges, which the French authorities saw as the illegal trafficking of cannabis products.  The panel of five judges said the case rested on whether CBD was considered a narcotic under EU law as determined by the interpretation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Substances.


‘CBD not harmful to human health’

They then ruled that CBD should not be considered a narcotic under the 1961 UN Convention, as CBD does not “have any psychotropic effect or any harmful effect on human health”. The Court said that while CBD could technically have been included in the legislation set out in the UN convention, banning CBD would be “contrary to the general spirit of that convention and to its objective of protecting ‘the health and welfare of mankind’”. 


Caption: Maltese EU parliamentarian Miriam Dalli has been an ardent campaigner for the legalization of medical marijuana.


Furthermore, the court ruled that EU states cannot ban the marketing of CBD legally produced in another member state unless a risk to public health “appears sufficiently established”.


Ruling opens the way for free flow of CBD products in the EU

International consultancy Prohibition Partners says this ruling will have large scale implications for CBD in Europe and further abroad. Within the EU, it is now likely that all nations will accept the marketing of CBD produced not only from seeds and stalks but from leaves and flowers, as is the case with the products of Kanavape. 

More than 50 companies who are applying to register their products as Novel Foods within the EU will now be able to resume this process which would eventually allow marketing of their CBD food substances. 

The court’s decision may also influence the position of the EU states at the upcoming UN vote in December on the classification of cannabis in international law. The EU had previously leaned against declassifying CBD under international law but now may well support the motion which could potentially sway the outcome.

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