Vive La CBD Revolution: The French Ground War on Regulated CBD

As with many things in the cannabis revolution, there are moments when achieved reform or market creation feels bittersweet. Certainly, most within this industry, having attained a hard fought and well-deserved, even litigated, or legislative victory have also had the experience of realizing that such a development is both a step forward but also two back. 

Thus is the case in France right now.

On one hand, the order by the French Ministry of Solidarity and Health, issued on December 30, 2021, implementing Article R.5132-86 of the Public Health Code is a victory for the industry. In direct response to the KanaVape case, where the European Court of Justice decreed that imported CBD sold in France (and produced elsewhere in the European Union (EU)) was legal and by extension that the cannabinoid was not a narcotic, the French government has essentially enshrined an EU decision into French law.

Namely, that CBD can be sold and further that it is clearly not a narcotic.

However, it is what forms that cannabis could be available to consumers that are creating consternation if not a direct rebellion from some in the industry.

The Basics

Here is what the new order does. It legalizes the CBD industry and products. Here is the bad news. It specifically bans the retail sale of cannabis flower. This includes the smokable and tea varieties.

The positives? This development means that the purveyors of any CBD containing product that has been certified in the required regulatory pathways are finally in a position where there is a legal market for their products. 

No French police raids on grocery stores for CBD cookies loom in the horizon as a result. 

Merci beaucoup.

On the other hand, here is the merde a la mode.

The order is devastating to hemp producers and small stores who sell flower and products that contain the same (like hemp tea). While the legal limit for THC in hemp was also raised (from 0.02 percent to 0.03 percent), this means that cultivators must rely only on B2B sales to those who will further transform (usually extract) the CBD for use in other products (from cosmetics to food).

The new order also does not move CBD out of the Novel Food category. This could also be a ripe territory for legal challenges, particularly for CBD cultivated in France itself. However, given the blow just directed in the direction of the French cultivation industry, a by-product of this decision could very well move cultivation of even hemp outside the country’s borders.

A Whimper Rather than a Bang

The bottom line is that this development is hardly a French Revolution on CBD. Further it may well be a cynical move by French President Emmanuel Macron, who as of January 1 took over the next six month tenure as the President of the EU on his way to facing national voters in the near future. Namely, inch a conversation which is much despised at the nosebleed level of European politics only as far forward as absolutely necessary.

Indeed, this kind of unfortunate mindset is still much in keeping with the general attitude about cannabis cultivation, even of the medical kind, in Europe. Politicians in Germany were so opposed to legalizing home grow that they banned even registered German pharmaceutical firms from participating in the country’s first cultivation bid for the regulated pharmaceutical market. Beyond that, there are still many questions still open on the hemp side of the conversation.

It is trickle down reform and of course, as a result, will be fought, again, in court.

The Industry Strikes Back?

On January 3, industry groups including the hemp union and the trade association of CBD sellers, the Union des Professionals du CBD, for whom flower sales can represent as much as 80 percent of their business, issued a challenge to the new order. They are asking the government to suspend the same because at an EU level, there is no distinction between flower and extract. The application was submitted to the highest administrative court in France—the Council of State. It has so far not been rejected (meaning that the court could side with the industry).

Indeed, many on the ground feel that this is just another way of setting back the industry if not reform itself—and further apparently fairly similarly at the nosebleed level of European politics. For example, the discussion about the sales of both flower and CBD containing products has also been contentious in places like Germany (which has seen both police and court action against firms selling either or). In the UK, the sale of the same is explicitly banned. 

Yet this is not the trend in Europe. In most places, although not explicitly stated as such as in Belgium and Luxembourg, CBD flower is more or less treated like tobacco. In both Malta and Italy, home grow is also now explicitly allowed—even if just of the hemp variety. Indeed, that is one of the more intriguing aspects still outstanding of the KanaVape case (namely that the imported extract at the centre of all the hullabaloo was for inhalation). 

Obviously, since 2017 in Germany, there are very clearly medical flower sales that are smoked by patients and nobody is talking (yet) about removing flower from the high THC, adult-use market, coming hopefully now sooner than later aus Deutschland. There is also no guarantee that those patients now participating in French trials are only consuming their dispensed flower by approved medical vape.

Regardless, no matter the hypocrisies and inconsistencies, on both the smoking argument, and of course the perennial pushback from the police (on issues from not being able to tell the difference on the street, to driving issues), these are the issues much in the room across the European discussion right now. This newest development in France is no exception.

Further, the underlying assumption being made about even CBD flower is also highly significant. Not only does it rule out the opportunity of consumers and patients to make their own products using extraction methods, but it also continues to categorize all cannabis flowers in a highly harmful category.

This is concerning for two reasons. The first, obviously, is that this is potentially a major blow to the hemp industry in France, an industry with about $180 million in sales last year. More worryingly, it may also have an impact far beyond French borders. European countries are looking to each other to figure out a pathway to legalization that can be both accepted and implemented given the current state of international regulations on cannabis. Namely the still unchanged classification of cannabis and cannabinoids by the UN as a Schedule I drug.

Indeed, the many wrinkles in the path towards even CBD legalization seen in France, among other EU countries, are just a small precursor to the now looming fight over THC.

It is for all these reasons that the hemp industry at both the French and increasingly European level is watching this case actively, if not preparing strategies on how to fight back not only on the ground in France, but use similar tactics unleashed locally in every sovereign nation in Europe.

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Malta Becomes First in the EU to Legalize Recreational Cannabis Use

In a sign that things are absolutely at a tipping point in Europe, the Mediterranean island of Malta became the first country in both Europe and the European Union (EU) to legalize recreational cannabis cultivation, possession and use. Luxembourg announced similar plans (and a similar model) about a month ago, but this will be (at least initially) limited to the public sale of seeds. 

While the bill still needs to be signed by the President, this is a small detail. In the words of the lawmaker who introduced the legislation into the Maltese Parliament, Owen Bonnici, this is in fact a “ground-breaking” moment. It also marks the first time a European legislative body has enacted recreational cannabis reform at a federal level. 

Despite a greater federal involvement in the regulation of the industry in Holland, even the Dutch have not gone this far. Switzerland is not in the EU.  Portugal and Germany are poised to move forward but have not yet. Luxembourg has come out of the shadows, but only to create a public seed market (for the time being).

Indeed, given the timing of such announcements, it is very likely that the Luxembourgian market and the Maltese one will develop along very similar timelines if not industry constructs.

The only difference of course is that in Malta, there is no grey area left. Cannabis specific outlets will be allowed to operate—albeit at a suitable distance from schools and youth centers.

Beyond this, consumers will be able to carry seven grams in public, grow up to four plants and keep up to 50 grams of cannabis at home.

The Birth of the European Recreational Cannabis Market

This development was only a matter of time. In the past months, recreational cannabis reform has been on the top of the docket all over Europe—even if not moving quite so quickly as in Malta. Most significantly, the new coalition government in Germany, Europe’s largest economy, has announced plans to legalize recreational use as early as next year. 

Luxembourg and Switzerland are both moving forward with limited trials. Portugal is also very likely to follow suit. Italy is also hovering around the edge of this question, with over half a million signatures gathered this summer to force the issue forward at the legislative level.

If there was a parallel, this is now a time very much like 2012 in the United States. Reform is now formally being accepted at a legislative level (although here it is at a sovereign rather than at the state level). In two years, there could be as many as five or six recreational reform states up and running.

What Does this Mean for the Industry?

Now is a very good time for American investors, in particular, to begin staking out a presence here. While flower and product cannot cross the Atlantic (at least not easily and without a few detours), investments can. The British are also circling. While reform has not (and probably will not come) as fast as it has on the continent, the equity markets in London are already a go-to place for those on the hunt for investment.

What has begun as a trickle this year is likely to become a veritable flood within the next six to 12 months.

German firms, particularly those who have managed to get into the medical space with an operational distribution license, have a clear advantage at the moment, across the region, simply because of the benefit of an early organizational head start.

Change at the EU Level

While such developments are clearly exciting, don’t expect all of this to be smooth sailing. There are still several big impediments that remain before the industry can operate more normally. While individual countries will begin to move in the recreational direction, the topic still needs to be addressed at a regional level. So far, the only place this has happened is with CBD (which still has not been adopted by many countries).

This will be an issue in (at least) the cross-border trade of cannabis—and for that reason, EU GMP is likely to play a much larger role, at least at first. German pharmaceutical specialty distributors will also have a clear advantage in the coming market—and not just in one country, but across the region.

Regardless, real cannabis change is finally coming. It just happened in Malta first.

And while it may still not make it into the top 10 most significant events in Maltese history, this development is certainly a marker of great change—and further, not limited to just this one, small European island.

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Luxembourg Publishes Details on Domestic Recreational Cannabis Plan

There is a very funny thing about the European cannabis discussion right now, particularly as the news of the German decision to proceed with recreational reform has emerged with the formal creation of the next coalition government. Namely that promising reform while entering power is fairly popular, if not an inevitable development at this point, nobody really wants to go first.

That honor, so far, within Europe (beyond Holland) will almost certainly go to the Swiss, who are powering forward with the nitty gritty details required to create a new market as of next year. However, Switzerland is famously not in the European Union. And within such countries, no politician, at least until the German decision to proceed with recreational, has quite known how to frame such forward progress in formal statutes.

That reality has been made even more clear during the last week as Luxembourg’s government, which promised as part of its platform in 2018 that it would legalize recreational use by 2023, has just taken a rather large sidestep. Namely, the country’s first foray into this discussion will be in fact just to allow adults the right to self-cultivate four plants.

For all the hullabaloo, in other words, this is a dramatic twist if not anti-climatic development in a situation now fraught with the inevitability of reform (even if not in Luxembourg first).

Luxembourg: The First Baby Steps

What is so ironic about all of this is the fact that for the past three years, officials in Luxembourg have made it very public that they were “studying” the Canadian model. What has developed is actually far more like the Dutch (at least so far) if not the evolving situation in other European countries (see Malta, which allowed home-grow this year and appears to be actually on the verge of greater reform by the end of the year, not to mention Italy, which appears to be backing into the same thing).

This is what the government is prepared to regulate: the seed market. Plants grown in private homes, away from sight and out of reach of minors, will have to be grown from either seeds purchased domestically (in either brick-and-mortar establishments or online), or even from abroad (see Holland, for starters). 

In the meantime, there will be a plan produced for the national production of seeds for commercial uses. This presumably is the next step the Luxembourgians see the market evolving into as Germany now presumably takes the lead on setting policies that will probably be copied across Europe.

The legislation also proposes decriminalizing the possession of up to three grams of flower if caught in public, with perpetrators punished with a fine that is like those for tobacco transgressions.

Of course, this development is also a bit more than a face-saving move. The country is moving, even if slowly, towards full cannabis reform. In the meantime, Luxembourg will be creating a longer-term infrastructure for a commercial market to begin. Not to mention offsetting the huge outlay of government funds for medical cannabis, which as of this year was going for 100 euros a gram (wholesale).

What Is Likely to Happen

While this is pure conjecture at this point, the interesting thing about the Luxembourgian development is that it may end up being very much like a mix of the Swiss and German markets. The Swiss made the sale of CBD plants legal, which in turn set off a cottage industry post 2017, which in turn has clearly created a basis for the recreational market now set to launch in the first half of 2022. 

The Swiss also appear to be creating, deliberately, a domestic market for the sourcing of all cannabis for this new domestic market. Indeed, all cannabis bound for this national trial must be sourced within Switzerland’s borders.

It is very likely that the market in Luxembourg will eventually be similar. This way, it also keeps the discussion about the cannabis tourist trade in limbo, at least until someone else beyond the Dutch addresses it. Indeed, there is a lingering stigma in Holland about pot tourism that continues to rear its head in Luxembourg too, even as this is also an obvious way to repair COVID-induced damage to this sector of every European economy right now.

No matter what, however, it is clear that no country’s politicians in Europe, particularly if they come to power with a pro-cannabis plank, can entirely duck the conversation. 

Luxembourg, however, is not going to be “first” within the EU, much less Europe. That distinction, as of the recent news revealed, will almost certainly be the Swiss and the Germans.

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Portugal Punts (Temporarily) on Cannabis Reform as Government Collapses

Budget wars, not antipathy to the prospect of the full and final legalization of cannabis, will probably put Portugal behind on the recreational reform question within the European Union (EU). The country’s 2022 budget had included tax cuts and increased public investment to stimulate the economy post COVID. It was opposed by both hard Left- and Right-wing parties. In late October, such political opposition to the budget proposed by Prime Minister António Costa triggered a final meltdown of the coalition that has governed here since 2015. 

In a rare event for the country, indeed one that has not happened since Portugal transitioned to democracy in 1974, the government was dissolved two years early by the right-wing President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa. National elections will be held on January 30 of next year.

What happens next, even on the cannabis discussion, is anyone’s guess. That said, it is also very unlikely that any new government here will oppose forward cannabis reform. The country has a vested interest in the development of the sector. And even though the licensing process on the medical side has been fraught with difficulties if not delays, it is clearly proceeding.

Why is Portugal Important in the European Cannabis Discussion?

Portugal is famous for its liberal approach to all drugs, although it is inaccurate to say that everything has been “decriminalized.” There have been various attempts to reform the country’s drug policy ever since the 1970s. In the present, cannabis is not technically legal here, although the medical cultivation sector has certainly taken off since 2017.

In early June, a bill to formalize the legalization of the personal use of cannabis was proposed by two parties, the Left Bloc and the Liberal Initiative and forwarded to the Health Commission for debate. This debate never happened due to repeated requests for postponement.

Now that the government has been dissolved, the legislation will have to be re-introduced by the new government.

Regardless, since 2017, when Tilray began construction on its cannabis facility, Portugal has begun to play a larger and larger role in the entire European cannabis discussion. This, so far at least, is less about the liberalization of policy domestically and more about the ability to obtain cultivation licenses (although this too is not as “easy” as many in the industry have infamously claimed). That said, the country has the most operating regulated cultivation facilities and licenses of any EU sovereign state outside of Holland. Of course, unlike the Dutch, these are all of the internationally regulated, GMP variety.

As it stands, the market is geared towards the production and, coming soon, extraction of the plant primarily for export (and even more specifically, targeted at and for the German medical market). Indeed, production and labor costs here put the country, along with Greece and evolving African cannabis cultivation economies, roughly on par in terms of cost per gram (both for flower and extracts).

What Would a Portuguese Rec Market Actually Impact?

The answer is, quite obviously, that a recreational market here would positively affect not only the broader economy but the tourist sector, in the process creating a booming market with a canna flair.

That said, it is also clear that this might in turn be a bit of a stretch for a region where the most forward cannabis reform country (Luxembourg) just punted on the question and took a slower path to the entire conversation with a home grow provision (along with supporting a regulated cannabis seed market).

However, after Europe emerges from what is likely to be another hard COVID winter, such sensitivities could well be overrun by politics and politicians who are looking for economic stimulation any way they can get it. This entire conversation, of course neatly fits that bill, no matter how contentious economic development with a cannabis flair still is outside of Greece (at least within the EU). Certainly, the medical sector has gotten more respectable over the last four years. Even the German government is now considering the same, in part because of the estimated tax revenue that is likely to come of the formal development of this market.

Bottom line? Portugal is no longer the outlier it once was on the topic. Indeed it may now fall behind full reform in other countries even within the EU, starting with both Luxembourg and Germany.

That said, the development of a fully legit market here will undoubtedly continue to impact the entire industry across the continent—starting with sourcing medical production bound for elsewhere, but undoubtedly, as the entire discussion progresses, recreational cannabis products too.

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It’s Official: New Ruling German Coalition to Legalize Recreational Cannabis Use

Even the most die-hard “medical only” German voices within the cannabis industry have been posting the news all over their social media including LinkedIn for the past week, even before the news was official. But as of Wednesday, that has changed, officially. The new so-called “Traffic Light Coalition” will indeed be legalizing recreational use cannabis with a bill to do so introduced in the German Bundestag next year.

For those who have fought for the same, in the trenches, for years if not decades, it is an exciting moment. It is also electrifying the industry, which now has over 100 medical cannabis specialty distribution licenses, a growing patient base (estimated 100,000 at this point), and a topic that just will not quit. Particularly as the Swiss (in part, a German language country) are doing the same thing. This is particularly momentous given the timing. Germany might even beat Luxembourg into the recreational discussion within the European Union.

That said, no matter how exciting, the devil, as always, is in the details. How much, what exactly, and how it will be implemented is all still up in the air. Cannabis is still not actually decriminalized, and there are all sorts of strange pieces of case law and to be changed statutes still very much in the room.

What Is Known So Far

The reason this is such a big deal is that the announcement comes as the three parties who won the most votes in the federal election in September have sealed the deal to work together with a common plank that includes cannabis reform (along with phasing out coal by 2030 while also having at least 15 million electric cars on the road). After that, it is just a matter of crafting the legislation and introducing it into the German parliament. Unlike the U.S., where there have been multiple, unsuccessful attempts to pass a federal legalization bill, this one is almost guaranteed to pass. The Germans are funny like that.

Here is what is actually official. In a statement released by the SDP, Greens and FDP, this is what the coalition plans to do. “We are introducing the controlled supply of cannabis to adults for consumption in licensed stores. This controls the quality [of marijuana], prevents the transfer of contaminated substances and guarantees the protection of minors.”

The government will review the experiment in four years to determine the impact (including economically and socially). That said, there is little chance such a forward step would be rolled back.

Issues And Problems Along the Way

It is not like this is going to be smooth sailing. There are a few major issues to address. Chief among those is how to amend the country’s federal narcotics law. Cannabis, including CBD, is considered a narcotic. This is already out of step with EU policy on the same (with a pending lawsuit to change that). Regardless, add THC to the mix, and there is going to be some fancy footwork and legal eagling to make the change happen not only in the new legislation, but that which governs and regulates the medical variety.

German Impact

There is little doubt that Germany’s move to recreational cannabis will forward the debate across Europe—and potentially in the same timeframe as it has impacted the medical conversation. Just four years ago, the concept of using medical cannabis even for pain relief was a very strange, often socially unacceptable topic. Today, there are about 100,000 German patients.

The Germans may not have arrived yet, but they are certainly on the way.

This is absolutely a Colorado if not Canadian tipping point. However, it may also be one that is not just about Germany, or even Europe, but an international and global one.

Coming as it is on the international news of Mexico implementing recreational reform by year’s end and Italians potentially having the ability to vote on legalizing personal possession and home grow as of next spring, not to mention both Luxembourg and Switzerland definitely moving ahead with their own recreational markets, it is clear that full and final cannabis reform is now a mainstream topic and goal on a federal level of many countries.

This will also, undoubtedly spur on the debate in the U.S. If Germany can do this, less than four years after federal legalization of its medical market, what is the U.S. waiting for? Or for that matter China? In the latter case, with a corporate real estate market melting down, perhaps finally, and on a global scale, cannabis will be considered a great if not green and global investment.

In the meantime, the last days of Prohibition have clearly arrived and on a global level.

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Few Medical Cannabis Licenses in Portugal Have Been Awarded

Ever since Tilray decamped for Portugal during the early days of the German cannabis cultivation bid circa 2017, the country has been touted as “the place” within the European Union (EU) for the German distributors to source their product.

That said, the actual progress of the industry has been a little slower than that—in part because of the length of time it takes for legislative change to happen. Indeed, it was not until April 15 of this year that Ministerial Order No. 83/2021 was finally published. According to local legal practitioners, at least, this order also has clarified a great many practical aspects of the application process. This includes reference prices.

Looking at the progress of cultivation licenses, however, and the proof is in the pudding. To date, there have been 114 applications for the cultivation of cannabis to the National Medicines Agency (Infarmed). Of these, just 23 are “under analysis,” 11 are awaiting a response from the cultivators, and 61 are waiting to be inspected (a major issue facing almost every budding cannabis cultivator thanks to COVID.)

Here are a few more dampening statistics. Of the 19 currently operational cannabis cultivation facilities, only three can manufacture medical grade extracts and products. One of these is in business solely for the purposes of providing “quality control.” The remaining facilities are in business to cultivate the plant as a “raw material,” or, of great interest of course to every German distributor looking for new sources of EU cultivated product, “active substances.”

What, exactly, is going on?

EU GMP Is Not an Easy Certification

Despite its reputation to the contrary, including the now pending legislative move to formally legalize adult-use cannabis, the medical authorities here are very strict. They must be. They are the country’s version of the Federal Drug Administration (or FDA).

Indeed, it was only this February that Tilray announced that it had received the first and only market authorization for medical cannabis products in Portugal. This means that everyone else is cultivating for export to other countries (notably Germany). Many German distributors (for starters) are currently importing raw flower (or flos) as “Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients” or APIs. There is clearly a market for the same.

Getting a medical license also takes capital. And it is also very clear that Portugal is also not the only game in town. Greek, Macedonian and, as of this year, African cannabis is also starting to enter the room.

Further, while there is a great deal of enthusiasm, generally, about the coming cannabis revolution on the recreational side, the medical game remains, as always, a difficult nut to crack, even after the capital has been raised. This is not always a popular task to take, but it is clear that when the dust clears, Infarmed is not interested in being just a pass-through agency.

According to Rob Smallman, a highly experienced Canadian cultivator who has been involved in multiple European projects, including in Portugal, “experience and a focus on the actual business in the room is a far better strategy than just satisfying investors.”

Michael Sassano, CEO and founder of SOMAI Pharmaceuticals as well as the recent recipient of an innovative product grant by the Portugal 2020 committee, concurs. “Cannabis entrepreneurs need to know exactly what they are doing to succeed and receive full certification,” he said. “Medical cannabis growing, and manufacturing requires more than just a lot of capital. It requires deep knowledge of regulations and GMP standards plus serious knowledge of the cannabis plant to surpass timely building, operational, and international sales goals.”

Portugal 2020 is a partnership agreement between Portugal and the European Commission to fund policy goals of interest to both member states and the EU as a whole.

Domestically, however, there is another catch. In a land known rather infamously if not accurately as “anything goes,” on the “illicit drug” front, cannabis as medicine is just as foreign here as it is everywhere else. Not to mention, just like everywhere else, medical cannabis is very expensive. The monthly price tag of about $600 is out of reach to most, if not many.

What Impact Does Pending Recreational Reform Mean for Portugal?

There are several answers to this question. The first and most obvious one is “nothing” since Infarmed only regulates a medical market, not a broader consumer one (more like BfArM in Germany than the FDA in the United States).

However, this is also not the only answer. Forward reform of Portugal’s legislative approach to recreational reform has repeatedly stalled, even as both Switzerland (outside of the EU) and Luxembourg (within it) have progressed.

There is of course this twist. Just like the Czech Republic (and Switzerland) have now started to discuss (and Holland has been in the midst of the same since 2017 when Dutch insurers stopped covering the drug the same month the German Bundestag or Parliament, voted to cover it under Deutsch public health insurance), the entire discussion of “medical” cannabis is coming under scrutiny. Particularly for domestic use, rather than foreign export.

This is a simmering issue. But it is bound to stay in the room, particularly given the advance of overall cannabis reform across Europe.

In the meantime, it is clear that Portugal is proving to be a stringent port of call for all things medically cannabis related—and far from just a pass-through cultivation or extraction state.

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Luxembourg to Become First EU Country to Legalize Cannabis Cultivation and Consumption

The European country of Luxembourg (also called the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg), which shares borders with Belgium, Germany and France, has a population of approximately 62,000 people. As one of the 27 countries that make up the European Union (EU), it could officially become the first in the EU to legalize cannabis cultivation.

The Luxembourg government announced on October 22 that it would be changing its laws on cannabis, with the intention of legalizing cultivation as well as personal consumption. The changes are included in a defense measure (which includes a total of 27 measures targeted at drug-related crime) that is targeting drug crimes in the country, according to Minister of Justice Sam Tanson.

“We thought we had to act, we have an issue with drugs and cannabis is the drug that is most used and is a large part of the illegal market,” Tamson said at a press conference. “We want to start by allowing people to grow it at home. The idea is that a consumer is not in an illegal situation if he consumes cannabis and that we don’t support the whole illegal chain from production to transportation to selling where there is a lot of misery attached. We want to do everything we can to get more and more away from the illegal black market.”

Adults over 18 years old would be allowed to cultivate up to four of their own cannabis plants at home. The location of these plants would be permitted in any residence, both indoors or outdoors, as well as on balconies, terraces and gardens. According to The Guardian, cannabis seeds would also be legal to obtain. Cannabis seeds would eventually be sold in shops, or purchasable online. Luxembourg officials also altered the punishment of possession.

The consumption or possession of cannabis under three grams is now a misdemeanor instead of a criminal offense. Prior to these new changes, a possession fine ranged from €251 to €2,500. “Above three grams, nothing changes, you will be considered a dealer,” Tanson said at the press conference. “Nothing changes for car drivers either: there is still zero tolerance.”

The reasoning behind Luxembourg officials’ decision to embrace cannabis is to curb the growth of illegal sales on the black market. However, this is only the beginning of the country’s path toward legalization. Tanson described the October 22 announcement as “a first step in our project to legalize recreational cannabis.” No announcement was made in regards to an official launch date, since this legislation is not yet set in stone. It must pass through the Chamber of Deputies next. According to translated text from the Luxemburger Wort, a local Luxembourg newspaper, Tanson expects “further measures to be taken by the end of the term, in 2023.”

One of Luxembourg’s three political parties, The Greens, posted a press release expressing the party’s approval of cannabis legislation. “The war on cannabis has failed. The announcements by Justice Minister Sam Tanson represent a fundamental reorientation of Luxembourg’s drug policy,” the press release states. “Finally, the use of cannabis is being regulated and a legal alternative to the black market is being created. This sets the course for a comprehensive regulation of cultivation and distribution. We expressly welcome the fact that the government will continue to push ahead with the coalition agreement project.”

Luxembourg has been previously committed to cannabis legalization in the past, having announced in August 2019 that it wanted to be the first EU country to legalize cannabis production and consumption. At the time, former Luxembourg Health Minister Etienne Schneider cited the failures of prohibition, and called upon other EU countries to loosen their own drug laws in relation to cannabis. Some reports shared that Luxembourg was using Canada’s approach to legalization. Schneider and other officials also toured a Canopy Growth Corporation facility in Smith Falls Canada back in 2018.

Previously, Luxembourg legalized medical cannabis in 2017, with its program having launched in 2018. The country could soon join other countries such as Uruguay, which legalized recreational cannabis in 2013, and Canada, which legalized in 2018, as well as numerous states in the U.S.

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Czech Government Triples Limit Allowed in Industrial Hemp

In a move that is further expected to shore up new calls for comprehensive cannabis reform at a European level, Czech President Miloš Zeman signed a law in the last week of September that allows industrial hemp grown in the country to have a THC level of 1.0 percent. 

This exceeds the current limit set by the European Parliament last fall as a regional guide (up from 0.2 percent to 0.3 percent), but that change will not take effect at the EU level until 2023.

Regardless, such a change comes at a very interesting time for the entire cannabis, if not hemp, discussion across Europe. Other provisions in the new Czech law are also going to shake up the discussion when it comes to access to cannabinoid drugs. Licensed, private groups will be allowed to manufacture medical cannabis products. 

This in turn will potentially affect not only the Czech Republic, but every country across the EU now in search of lower priced cannabis products (starting but not limited to flos and extract). Indeed, with this move, the CR may well position itself as the main competitor to North Macedonia in terms of pricing—and certainly whatever is on the way in Portugal. It will also create an alternative and much lower cost labour market than Denmark.

For countries starting with Poland, this may also be a boon to the entire discussion of access where patients just cannot access medicine they can afford.

It may also move the conversation in countries like Italy, which are also undergoing a new discussion about decriminalizing cannabis and other medical plants like psilocybin—and have already allowed home growing.

Medical cannabis cultivation has been legal in the country since 2013, but only a few, larger-scale growers have so far been licensed. Czechs are also allowed to grow up to five plants at home—it is technically decriminalized even though it can be punished with a fine—but many are hoping that the Pirate Party, currently polling third in the run up to the country’s national election in October, will be able to not only win but, as promised, embrace a sea of change in the country’s cannabis policy.

Whether the Pirates win is one thing. Regardless of more changes in the country’s cannabis policy after the election, the Czech Republic is again taking a first stand on a major issue in the industry that is bound to stimulate if not encourage more reform elsewhere.

Given the renewed call for “recreational trials” that are beginning to sprout up around Europe (and will be given even more of a push by the recent German elections last weekend), it is also not out of the question to see a similar trial in the CR in the next couple of years.

The Export Discussion

Currently, the medical cannabis produced in the country is for domestic consumption. This is a unique situation in Europe, since most of the cultivation underway post 2017 has been largely for export (and to Germany). As a result, within the country, medical cannabis does not have to meet a GMP certification, making it much less expensive to cultivate than in other parts of the EU. 

The dispensation of medical cannabis has grown exponentially over the last several years. Last year, patients were given close to 70 kgs—a dramatic increase over 2019 where the official dispensation figures showed just 17 kgs were distributed.

The Czech GMP discussion is also one of the most intriguing in the EU. As it stands, unless the cannabis it cultivates domestically is GMP rated, farmers will not be able to export it to other European medical markets. However, there is likely to be a massive uptick in domestic production and medical consumption. 

As a result of this, the CR may become one of the countries in the EU, like Portugal, where the entire “GMP vs GACP” discussion, and even for medical cannabis, is re-examined. This in turn, particularly set against a rising tide of calls for, at minimum, recreational trials in multiple countries, may confuse the issue even further rather than clarifying it.

So far, this certification has been the highest barrier companies have had to cross and face—starting with raising the financing to cultivate or extract at this level in the first place. 

With an exclusively medical market in the region, nobody challenged the same—at least directly—although all the larger Canadian companies in the room have repeatedly stubbed their toes on this issue.

Now, with recreational trials also looming, the certification question that has seemed to be so uniform may also be challenged—albeit on a country-by-country basis.

Reform and of the most interesting, varied and potentially market moving kind, has absolutely landed in the EU, if not Europe, this summer—and the new developments in the Czech Republic will undoubtedly ripple far beyond the country’s borders as the discussion begins to broaden if not finally flower and bloom.

The post Czech Government Triples Limit Allowed in Industrial Hemp appeared first on High Times.

An Update On British CBD and the Novel Food Regulations in EU

The CBD market was built from the ground up by small British businesses, but it’s about to be stolen by government-backed companies.

(This is an ‘Opinion‘ article, written by one of our readers. All the statements in this article are the personal opinions of the author and not representative of CBD Testers. Click HERE to learn how to get your article published)

Over about the last five years,
small British businesses have built the CBD market
from zero to hundreds of millions in annual sales. It’s been driven by rapidly
changing attitudes towards cannabis and a realization that many of its
medicinal benefits could be available legally by using traditional hemp
extracts.

Big business,
the established supplement and health food companies weren’t interested. They
saw the stigma around cannabis before they saw the changing attitudes.

Now it’s all very different. Millions of people
are using CBD. All the big multiples are stocking it. It’s become a media
fascination and many people say they gain great benefit from it. Suddenly, big
business and all the regulators are interested. Suddenly those who weren’t
bothered previously are cautioning about all sorts of dangers and concerns.

Although evidence of CBD or hemp
causing any harm is minimal at best, they clearly they don’t think these small,
independent businesses can be trusted anymore. A likely scenario is that they
want a slice of the action – or possibly all of the action if they can get
their chums in government and the bureaucracy to step in and assist with their
plans.

In fact the British CBD
industry has been a model of responsible self-regulation. Two trade
associations, the CTA and CannaPro, represent virtually all the leading UK
suppliers and maintain high levels of quality control and trading standards,
including regular reporting of non-compliant businesses to the MHRA.

But in June this year, the Centre
for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC) published a sensational report alleging that most of the CBD
on the market was very poor quality
,
contained illegal levels of THC and some contained no CBD at all. Its report
was presented as some sort of independent, academic study that should be
regarded as science. But was it really? Or was it a cheap marketing stunt? Interestingly
enough, just a few weeks later it announced that
all its members’ products were good quality and there was no problem with them.


Now the CMC has thrown itself in with the EU and is backing the classification of British CBD products as ‘novel foods’, meaning that any business selling CBD would have to apply for an authorization at a cost of at least £250,000 in a process taking perhaps two years to complete. The CMC has also aligned itself with an interpretation of the law on THC levels in CBD products which is completely at odds with the established industry. It has sided with the Home Office saying that there cannot be any THC at all, whereas the industry relies on a definition of ‘exempt products’ in the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 which permits up to 1mg of THC in each container.

As Brexit approaches, the Food
Standards Agency (FSA) is expected to issue guidance on enforcement of the
novel foods classification. If it acts before Brexit then the position will be
carried over in the Withdrawal Agreement. And now the CMC has launched yet
another trade body, the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry, (ACI) which it is implying will enable CBD suppliers to
enjoy a ‘grace period’ from FSA enforcement.

It would be unlawful for the FSA to make any arrangements or offer any ‘grace period’ to CMC or ACI members that is not available to any other business. At the moment, the CMC/ACI is pushing it with the requirement to sign up to membership at a cost said to be between £10,000 and £50,000 per year, completely prohibitive for the small businesses that have worked so hard to develop this industry.

The CMC appeared sometime in 2018
announcing itself as the UK’s first and only industry membership body for
businesses and investors operating in cannabis based medicinal products (CBMPs)
and cannabidiol (CBD) wellness markets.
It’s actually the fifth or sixth to
set itself up as a trade body in this market and it’s certainly not the only.
Between them, the CTA and CannaPro represent hundreds of businesses with
millions of satisfied customers. The CMC has only a handful of members.

What’s important to note is that the
CMC/ACI has a large financial pool from its backer, the multimillionaire Paul
Birch as well as a great deal of influence from Steve Moore, who knows all the
right people in all the establishment and has a lot of pull. In just a few
short months a fortune has been funneled into PR and media relations and made
itself the go to source for anything on medicinal cannabis and CBD. It has also
bought and paid for a large number of highly qualified people with impressive
credentials who inevitably carry great weight with the authorities. Its
ambitions are clear.

What are the CMC’s intentions? Do
they plan to destroy the small businesses that built this market and seize it
all for itself –  and it looks as though it may well succeed?

CannaPro spoke with the FSA earlier
this week. For the moment, the FSA cannot act as we are in election ‘purdah’,
the civil service can’t really do anything except keep the status quo but that
will all change after the election. Then, depending on the new government, it
may move rapidly to commence enforcement. What this will mean is impossible to
predict but almost certainly the multiples will take stock off the shelves
unless some interim arrangements are agreed. Those with retail premises will be
in the most immediate danger, online sellers will be in a better position but
if Trading Standards officers try to seize stock, they have extraordinary
powers and trying to obstruct them may result in arrest.

From where I stand, the novel foods
classification is fake and a lot of evidence has been presented to prove this
but it is simply being dismissed. It’s rather like the way the medical
establishment dismisses the evidence on medicinal cannabis. If these
institutions don’t like evidence they simply ignore it. For obvious reasons, it
suits the CMC to get behind the novel food scam but the result for consumers
will be a lot less choice and probably substantial price rises. It’s also very
bad news for British CBD businesses. A lot of people are likely to lose their
jobs.

Read more about Novel Food Status here.

Mike Harlington from CTA has provided a reply to this article, which you can read in the comment section below. We are awaiting a response from the CMC.

(This is an ‘Opinion‘ article, written by one of our readers. All the statements in this article are the personal opinions of the author and not representative of CBD Testers. Click HERE to learn how to get your article published)

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The post An Update On British CBD and the Novel Food Regulations in EU appeared first on CBD Testers.