Will France’s Post-World Cup Economic Boon Come from Hemp?

By | July 17, 2018

Since 1970, the winners of the World Cup have seen economic growth after their country’s victory. France’s boon could include CBD, if the government would allow it.

France, who defeated Croatia in the championship match on July 15, was the third-largest producer of hemp in the world in 2017 with 40,000 acres in cultivation, just after Canada (138,000 acres) and China (116,000 acres). In the US, acreage reached 25,000, doubling 2016’s output.

Industrial hemp is grown in France for its seeds and fibrous stems. Only a few strains of the plant, listed in article R.5132.86 of France’s Public Health Code for cannabis, are allowed for cultivation provided they contain less than 0.2% THC.

“France produces the lion’s share of Europe’s pulp and paper,” according to zenpype.com. “It’s the most important hemp market in the EU, accounting for over 50% of fiber applications. French hemp cultivars are suited for grain and fiber production, the specific varieties that industry trends demand.”

France has the highest rates of cannabis consumption in Europe. Among France’s 67 million people, there are 800,000 regular cannabis users and 17 million experimenters. 

Meanwhile, smokeable marijuana containing THC is strictly prohibited in France. Medical use is allowed via prescription. During his presidential campaign in 2017, Emmanuel Macron promised to reduce cannabis arrests to citations and stop sending people to jail for possession.

France has the highest rates of cannabis consumption in Europe and a black market estimated at 1.2 billion Euros. Among France’s 67 million people, there are 800,000 regular cannabis users and 17 million experimenters.

The French are used to going to Amsterdam or Rotterdam for pot tourism. In the Netherlands, cannabis has been available for recreational purposes in coffeeshops since the ’70s.

The global financial crisis hit the Netherlands hard in 2008. Two years later, after Holland’s soccer team went to the World Cup finals, the economy began to recover. In 2009, the Dutch cannabis industry contributed 1.1 billion Euros to the national economy.

In 1998, France’s economic growth increased by 6% in the three months following its World Cup victory over Brazil. Analysts revealed that with victory comes a systematic improvement of household morale and leads to larger investments such as the purchase of new vehicles and houses, and starting businesses.

Hemp field in France

While France Advanced in the World Cup, the CBD Green Rush Bloomed

In June, several CBD shops opened in France, one in Paris called Cofyshop. Shops sold out the day they opened. The very first CBD store opened in October 2017 in Besançon in eastern France, near the border with Switzerland. The owner, Élodie Marchon, got the smart idea to start selling hemp flowers as dietary supplements in her vape shop. She buys flowers with less than 0.2% THC in Switzerland, where CBD products are legal as long as they contain less than 1% THC, and sells them in France as “herbal teas.”

In May, Minister of Health Agnés Buzyn stated clearly that the adult use of cannabis is absolutely not an option. However, the fact that she didn’t say anything about the well-known situation going on in Besançon was enough to encourage the establishment of more than 100 more such shops throughout France in the span of a few days. National police started to seize some goods and send the flowers to toxicology laboratories in order to test the products and see if they contained more than 0.2% THC. For the first time, dried hemp flowers could be sold “legally” as a dietary supplement. To circumvent the legal ambiguity, herbal tea containing CBD clearly instructs on the packaging: “No smoking.”

France Is a Huge Market for Cannabis, But Its Laws Remain Repressive

MILDECA, the government agency that coordinates efforts to control drugs and drug addiction in France, issued a precise reminder of the law in order to stop this French green rush at its inception. MILDECA (for Interministerial Mission for Combatting Drugs and Addictive Behaviors) considers the sale of hemp flower to be an incentive to consume cannabis that is also high in THC. They clarified that:

  • The hemp flower is considered waste and is prohibited for sale.
  • Processing the flowers or even extracting molecules from the hemp flowers are also prohibited.
  • Products that contain cannabidiol (CBD) extracted from the flowering portion of the plant are illegal.
  • Finished goods must contain no trace of THC, only the plant can contain less than 0.2% THC.
  • No therapeutic claims can be made about CBD products.

“They might have scared some people, but that is not going to stop me,” says Damien Libeau, a NORML France member who’s planning to open a CBD store in Paris. He’s already selling CBD tinctures online to patients suffering from conditions like cancer, arthritis, fibromyalgia, epilepsy, Crohn’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

In June, Health minister Buzyn commented about the CBD stores: “They took advantage of the gray area of law to open their coffee shops. They will have to close in a few months. Any sale of products containing THC is prohibited in France. I’m against the legalization of cannabis because I think it’s a toxic and dangerous product and I’m also against its decriminalization.”

Many entrepreneurs think France’s ban on hemp flower is not consistent with European legislation.

This month, the Narcotics Brigade of the French National Judicial Police (DCPJ) began to arrest coffeeshop managers and seize goods in several regions of France. NORML France’s team of lawyers is helping to prepare their defenses and to question the legality of those pursuits.

Many entrepreneurs think France’s ban on hemp flower is not consistent with European legislation. They’re convinced that Common Agricultural Policy (the agricultural policy of the European Union) authorizes all parts of the hemp plant to be used. As a member state of the EU, France should not have the right to restrict the common organization of markets in the hemp sector, they contend.

Florent Buffière, the Communications Manager for NORML France, expects some liberality in cities like Lyon and repression in others like Reims. Buffière, who studied at Oaksterdam University in Oakland, CA, hope France’s cannabis laws in France will someday be like those in California and other US states.

On July 14—Bastille Day, the national holiday of France—people sang the national anthem as a reminder of the courage of those who fought during the French revolution. The next day, France won its second-ever World Cup, crowning the soccer team as the best across the globe. The national anthem rang out again, this time as a symbol of success and unity. While France’s morale was ambitious and unbreakable on that victorious day, the drumbeat of the cannabis revolution also reverberates in the hearts of the country’s patients, recreational users, entrepreneurs and activists.

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