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Cannabidiol (CBD) is an active substance derived from hemp (Cannabis sativa L.). It is gaining increasing interest among consumers in the fields of food, nutraceuticals, and cosmetics. The thriving CBD market in France benefits from the country’s position as the leading European hemp producer. However, despite this enthusiasm, the regulation surrounding CBD remains strict and complex for manufacturers and laboratories.

CBD, an Active Substance from Hemp

Cannabidiol, extracted from hemp, is used for well-being or medical purposes. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive component of cannabis, CBD has no psychotropic effects. It is preferred for its benefits without the euphoric effects associated with cannabis.

The CBD Market

A Booming Market

In France, as the leading European hemp producer and the third global producer in 2020[1], the CBD market is experiencing significant growth. It is estimated that the medical cannabis market (excluding smoking flowers) will reach 300 million euros by 2025, while the CBD product market is expected to reach 1 billion euros[2].

There are approximately 1,500 specialized stores, 5,000 retail outlets, and over 15,000 pharmacies selling CBD products in France[2].

At the European level, the CBD market is projected to increase from 450 million dollars in 2020 to 3.5 billion dollars by 2025, with the UK and Germany as key markets[3].

A Variety of CBD Products

The CBD market offers a variety of products, including food supplements such as oils, capsules, gummy tablets, and sprays, as well as finished products like cakes, beverages, candies, and chocolate. Food products account for 70% of CBD applications.[2] CBD-based cosmetics, such as creams, serums, and balms, are also becoming increasingly popular.

Strict Regulation in France and Europe

The regulation surrounding CBD is becoming increasingly strict. In France, CBD is no longer considered a narcotic as of December 30, 2021.

The THC content in hemp plants and derived products must be below 0.3%, except for two authorized medicines.

Furthermore, CBD is considered a “novel food,” meaning it cannot be marketed without evaluation and approval from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Therapeutic claims (pain relief, anti-inflammatory, etc.) are prohibited unless the product is a medicine.

According to the Directorate General for Food (DGAL), food supplements containing more than 20% CBD and/or a daily dose exceeding 50 mg are non-compliant. At the European level, the European Parliament has authorized CBD products with a THC content below 0.3%, up from 0.2% previously[4]. Currently, 21 EU countries authorize medical or “well-being”[5] cannabis, with some imposing maximum THC limits, such as Switzerland, where the limit is set at 1%.[6]

However, despite parliamentary texts, authorization requests are rejected under the European “novel food” regulation. At present, these applications are incomplete due to a lack of data on this ingredient. As a result, there is effectively no authorization for CBD, any other cannabinoid, or products containing CBD and/or other cannabinoids derived from Cannabis sativa L.

This explains why French manufacturers and laboratories are hesitant to work with “novel food” materials. Few companies are willing to risk incorporating these ingredients with ambiguous regulatory status into their production lines.

Consumers Seeking Well-being

In France, approximately 6 million people consume CBD, with the majority aged between 25 and 45. Consumers are increasingly informed, with 65% of French citizens having heard of CBD in 2022, up from 55% in May 2021[7]. Consumers use CBD to promote sleep, manage stress, relieve pain, and enhance concentration.[2]

Despite the growing popularity of CBD and its potential to promote well-being, the regulatory landscape remains unclear. Manufacturers must comply with ever-evolving regulations, posing a challenge to market development. It is crucial for regulatory authorities to continue evaluating scientific knowledge and evidence concerning CBD to establish clear and consistent regulations.

In conclusion, while the CBD market is experiencing rapid expansion and many consumers seek to enjoy its benefits, regulations in France and Europe remain a major obstacle. It is essential to closely monitor regulatory developments and promote research and scientific studies to address questions surrounding CBD. Only clear and well-defined regulations will foster a safe and prosperous CBD market, meeting consumer expectations while ensuring their safety.

[1] Nicolas Authier, Le petit livre du CBD, 2022

[2] UIVEC, Bilan 2022 et perspectives réglementaires pour le CBD en 2023

[3] Tipasa, CBD Market in Europe, 2021

[4] Réforme de la Politique Agricole Commune (PAC), adoptée par le Parlement le 23 octobre 2020

[5] Toute l’Europe.ue. Les législations sur le cannabis dans l’Union européenne. 2023

[6] Office fédéral de la santé publique OFSP, Cannabis

[7]« Étude IFOP pour Atelier Populaire par questionnaire auto-administré en ligne du 1er au 8 juin 2022 auprès d’un échantillon de 1000 personnes représentatif de la population Françaises âgée de 15 ans et plus résidant en France métropolitaine.