On 19th November 2020, the Court of Justice of the European Union announced something that may change the future of the cannabis market in Europe.
Remarking on a case involving the French government taking a company to court after the company tried to sell Czech-made CBD oil for vape pens in France, the court said something unprecedented.
“A member state may not prohibit the marketing of cannabidiol (CBD) lawfully produced in another member state when it is extracted from the Cannabis sativa plant in its entirety and not solely from its fibre and seeds,” they said.
Though they acknowledged that a state may be justified in prohibiting a product in the goal of “protecting public health”, they said a state must not go “beyond what is necessary”.
“The Court finds that EU law, in particular the provisions on the free movement of goods, precludes national legislation.”
And just like that, the European Union’s justice branch made it clear that EU member states were no longer allowed to ban CBD without serious reason to. They went a step further, saying that to prohibit the marketing of CBD constitutes the most “restrictive obstacle to trade”.
However, this is what Malta is basically doing.
Though Malta has a developed medical cannabis industry on paper, the reality is that the government’s strange approach to creating the industry has left one of the potentially most therapeutic substances, CBD, totally out of the discussion.
And without any political will to change things, Malta’s state might soon find itself at loggerheads with the EU’s justice branch.
CBD is still not regulated in Malta, leaving the non-psychoactive substance near-permanently in a legally grey area.
However, globally, CBD oil is more popular than ever, being sold at Boots and Holland and Barrett’s on London’s High Street, as well as other countries throughout Europe and the Western World.
And Maltese people who use it must do so hidden in the dark, unsure if they are breaking the law as they use the plant’s oil.
However, as the EU’s decision take precedence over any local laws as shown by the French court case, Maltese-based CBD companies look to the future with renewed hope after months of slowdown.
“This decision is crucial for the CBD industry” – Cedric Billot, CEO and Founder of Kanabiz.
Kanabiz, a Malta-registered company that is dedicated to CBD products working with producers from the UK, France, Italy, and the USA welcomed the court’s decision.
“This decision is crucial for the CBD industry, as it is the first time the EU court has given a firm decision about the status of CBD and as a result how the Member States should regulate it,” Billot told Lovin Malta. “It should bring another recognition for CBD and its health benefits inside the EU market, which had frustrated many companies operating for years.”
CBD companies had a tough enough time trying to explain that their products had nothing to do with recreational cannabis or even medicinals that included THC, the psychoactive substance in cannabis. Forced to operate in a grey area over a long term would basically mean the companies would need to close before they even got off the ground.
“Many businesses in Malta were waiting for this decision, and as a result will now be able to operate in a safer legal environment, knowing that ultimately the EU court is on their side about CBD,” the Kanabiz legal team told Lovin Malta. “We believe that Malta’s government will eventually issue an official position about CBD, and this EU judgement is for sure going to influence all EU countries local jurisdictions.”
“Additionally,” they continued, “with today’s ruling, CBD companies can also expect a clearer route to achieving compliance across the EU. The harmonisation of cannabinoid regulations could finally become a reality, and if not harmonisation, at least more consideration for the medical evidence allowing to classify a drug or not, which at the end benefits everyone’s health.”
“We hope and expect the government to move in the direction of the rest of the EU” – Damon Booth, CEO and Founder of CBD Box.
“I think it’s obviously great news for the industry, for users of CBD and of course our company,” Booth told Lovin Malta.
Booth himself has found his company’s growth is limited by the government’s lack of legislation and ignoring of the CBD sector.
It’s worth noting that the global CBD market was valued at €3.8 billion in 2018, and is expected to grow at an annual rate of 22.2% between 2019 and 2025.
Though Malta had seemed to be a medicinal cannabis pioneer for a brief moment, it seems the country’s slowed down majorly. However, the EU’s ruling may force the island to keep up with the rest of the world.
“It’s these big wins that move the sector in the right way faster and means people get access to the products they want,” Booth said. As a Maltese company, we will always adhere to local laws, of course, we hope and expect the government to move in the direction of the rest of the EU.”
“Malta aims to be a cannabis hub and CBD should be the faster route to mainstream education and usage. I think the upcoming UN ruling in December will also be positive and we could see CBD being globally de-scheduled,” he beamed.
With more and more people seeking to use CBD oil in their personal lives in Malta, it’s now up to the government to decide whether it’ll abide by EU precedent, or continue to force patients to hide in the shadows.