France to Renounce 0% THC Threshold

Today, the French National Assembly published its ‘Well-being Hemp’ report. In the report their ad hoc committee has been working on over the past year, they ask for more flexible regulation that would ensure the growth of the French CBD market.

The Committee calls on the national authorities and European countries to overcome the fears they have regarding cannabinoids and hopes that decisive support will be given to the French industry.

There is a total of 20 proposals in the document. European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) has welcomed the proposals, highlighting the following:

-Allowing the harvesting and transformation of flowers;
-Increasing the THC level in the field up to 1%;
-Including in the CosIng database new entries for natural hemp extracts from all parts of the plant.

Disproportionate fear of misuse

In their report, the French Committee underlines that the development of the sector in France is hampered by strong legal uncertainties and a certain reluctance of public authorities, both national and European. In their words, this reluctance mainly lies in the disproportionate fear of misuse of a molecule extracted from the hemp flower and unnecessarily slows down the growth of a market where France can acquire a dominant position in Europe.

The Court of Justice of the European Union with its November verdict forced the French authorities to embark on the path of unblocking the situation. The Government can no longer be satisfied with a 1990 decree laying down exemptions from the general ban on the use of cannabis products, the Committee concludes. They called for the broadest action in legal aspects that may apply to CBD products while recommending the deployment of information, evaluation, and control system intended to reassure consumers about the products’ safety.

In particular, they called the Government to definitively renounce the 0% THC threshold in the end products and set national THC thresholds specific for each category of finished products. A threshold between 0.6% and 1% authorized for hemp crops could now be fixed and unified at the national level. This could present a big legal breakthrough in the French CBD market. So far, the Interministerial Mission Against Drugs and Addictive Behaviour (MILDECA) only permitted CBD products with THC levels of 0.2% or less, and the products had to be made from approved types of (low-THC) hemp plants.

Concerning consumer protection, the Committee proposes it relying on the existing regulations on the prevention of misuse of products or health ‘vigilance.’ However, the existing framework is proposed to be strengthened to protect people at risk, such as minors and pregnant women. Also, the Committee is proposing a reform of the law and education for drivers who would be consuming products containing THC.

Definitively renouncing the threshold of 0% THC

Following is the complete list of new proposals that could transform the French CBD market:

Main proposals:

N ° 1: complete as quickly as possible the overhaul of the decree of August 22 1990 to secure the nascent “well-being hemp” sector, in particular through three axes below:
– No. 1-1: delete the words “fibers and seeds” in Article 1 of the order of
August 22, 1990, and expressly register the authorization for cultivation, importation, the export, and use of all parts of the hemp plant for
industrial and commercial purposes, including the flower;
– N ° 1-2: definitively renounce maintaining the threshold of 0% THC in the finished products and integrate specific THC thresholds into national regulations as quickly as possible to each category of finished product likely to contain CBD (foodstuffs, liquids, cosmetics), these thresholds are intended to be defined based on doses of toxicity estimated by ANSES;
– N ° 1-3: define a relevant threshold, located between 0.6% and 1%, of THC authorized in hemp crops in France, accompanied by a derogatory rate of 1% for the territories ultramarines located in warm latitudes.
N ° 2: delete article 2 of the decree of August 22, 1990, and regroup the authorizations of varieties of hemp within the only ministerial decrees taken based on the decree n ° 81-605 of May 18, 1981, to accelerate the procedure for recording news varieties
N ° 3: eventually, expand the national catalog to the most relevant hemp varieties in the European catalog.
N ° 4: quickly authorize national and local organizations of hemp producers to carry out varietal experiments to better define the needs
supply of the future national well-being hemp sector and, to this end, modify the first paragraph of II of Article R. 5132-86 of the Public Health Code in the sense of recognition of research projects focusing on the exploitation of new varieties for industrial purposes.
N ° 5: Place CBD Flowers Under the Status of ‘Other Herbal Smoking Product’ tobacco ”and, to this end, make available to the control services
high-performance detection making it possible to precisely distinguish the respective levels of CBD and THC from hemp flowers.

Proposals relating to the prevention of the misuse of CBD products:

N ° 6: continue to penalize promotional activities that may constitute an incentive, even if they are not followed by the use of narcotic products.
N ° 7: Intensify actions against producers and distributors who report therapeutic claims on CBD products.
N ° 8: modify the highway code to align the law applicable to driving under the influence of narcotics with that relating to driving under the influence of alcohol and provide for a standard of consumption of smoked CBD beyond which driving is strongly discouraged.

Proposals relating to the facilitation of the CBD market at the European level:

N ° 9: ensure that the European Commission fully draws the consequences of the ‘Kanavape’ judgment by modifying the CosIng catalog and resuming the examination of the Authorizations files filed for CBD under the New Foods procedure.
N ° 10: initiate a reflection with the other Member States of the European Union to achieve harmonized THC limit levels and, in the case of food products, complete the work initiated within the framework of the standing committee (SCOPAFF).
N ° 11: Obtain permission from the European Commission to use claims of
health specific to CBD in food products and supplements.

Proposals relating to the health regulation of CBD products:

N ° 12: define recommended daily doses (RDI), non-binding, of
consumption of CBD and mention them on the packaging of the products alongside warnings on currently known risks to human health (damage
hepatic and drug interactions).
N ° 13: exclude people at risk (children and pregnant women) from products containing CBD.
N ° 14: raise awareness among those involved in cosmetovigilance and nutrivigilance (manufacturers and health professionals) on the importance attached to the escalation of possible effects of unwanted cosmetics and CBD food supplements.
N ° 15: make sure that smoking products containing CBD (vaping and, if applicable, flowers) are subject to regulations with similar content imposing warnings specific sanitary facilities and prohibiting any advertising as well as the sale to minors under eighteen years old

Novel Food regulatory proposals:

N ° 16: encourage large French companies in the food industry and
food supplements to file as soon as possible with the European Commission to obtain, with data exclusivity, the right to market CBD products as Novel Food in the European Union.
N ° 17: set up a support system for small and medium-sized businesses
in the Novel Food authorization procedures that they would like to undertake for CBD products

Various proposals:

N ° 18: encourage the structuring of a “well-being hemp” sector around, in particular, the Professional union of hemp and InterChanvre to strengthen the defense of professional interests at the national and European level.
N ° 19: ensure that the tobacconist network is widely involved in the distribution of smoking products containing CBD.
N ° 20: invite French public research establishments, in particular, the National Institute of health and medical research (INSERM), to initiate work aimed at improving knowledge of the contributions of CBD in reducing THC dependence and the effects harmful to the body.

French CBD market could start thriving

French CBD market could start flourishing after the European Court of Justice ruling in November, which pushed this legislative reform. France already has the highest use of cannabis in Europe, but it’s still illegal for adult or medical use. On the 13th of January 2021, the French government launched a public consultation on the legalization of cannabis for adult use. The consultation is open until the 28th of February and already has over 200,000 respondents.

Also, France has begun its first medicinal cannabis trial. Tilray and other major cannabis companies have been contracted to supply medicinal cannabis products to more than 3.000 patients for the duration of the trial. 

Reviewed by Sasha Bajilo, founder of ILESOL Pharmaceuticals, an industrial scale producer of CBD products and formulations. Expert on Hemp/Cannabis policy, member of the Croatian Ministry of Health regulatory commission for medical cannabis.