They are all there, or almost. A small smile, a fist-to-fist salute – Covid obliges – before entering under the gilding of the Palais-Royal, in the very center of Paris. Under a beautiful winter sun, they hope today to cancel the ban on the flower, recently decided by the government. With a little surprise guest: Yannick Jadot. The environmentalist presidential candidate came for a few minutes for a photo, the time to denounce the attitude of the executive.
After climbing a few stairs, CBD industry and government officials enter a beautiful, well-lit room. The judge in chambers, Mrs Von Coester, is waiting for them, seated behind the desk in the center of the room. The representatives of the CBD – called claimants – sit on his right. Those who defend the government come face to face.
The Council of State judges the conflicts between the citizens and the administration. The judges who sit there have the power to annul decisions of the government or of a prefecture, if the latter is disproportionate and/or illegal.
Today, the world of CBD has filed an interim release and several interim suspensions to bring down the order prohibiting the CBD flower. The interim release presupposes a “serious and manifestly illegal attack on our fundamental freedoms”. The second must testify to an emergency situation. Today, the economic emergency is highlighted by the stores, since they derive 70% of their income from the flower.
A flower market at “300 to 400 million euros”
The hearing looks like an attack-defense. Lawyers from the Hemp Professional Syndicate (SPC) and the Union of CBD Professionals (UPCBD) are attacking the government’s recent decision. The judge listens to them, sometimes agrees. Then the government – notably represented by MILDECA and the Ministry of Health – defends itself and justifies its choice.
“We are talking today about a decree which absolutely and immediately prohibits the sale of the flower”, begins the lawyer Charles Morel, also president of the UPCBD. “I have dozens of accounting documents that prove that the flower represents two-thirds of sales in our stores”. The judge nods, concentrating.
To support his argument, he mentions the case of a CBD trader, prosecuted. “The reasons invoked were precisely the decree of December 30, which we are talking about today”, supports Morel. The merchant he is talking about is at the back of the room. He stands up for the judge to see him, arms crossed, focused.
Judge Von Coester then asks what is the economic weight of the flower in France. ” 300 to 400 million euros currently, but it can go up to 1 billion euros in a mature market”, answers Aurélien Delecroix, the boss of the SPC.
To prove the economic emergency, lawyer Cédric Uzan Sarano, who defends the SPC and the Green Leaf company, came with tea bags. He shows them to the summary judge. These are the same CBD herbal teas that Green Leaf markets, via “Monoprix, Auchan, Crossroads of well-established brands”, says the lawyer. Problem : “In our recent emails, supermarkets tell us: ‘Happy New Year… By the way, what is this decree?!’ You can check it yourself, the emails are on file. »
“Apple juice is fine; the apple is amazing”
Then comes the time for contradictions: the recent decree authorizes the CBD extract, but not the flower. “The government tells us, ‘Apple juice is fine. The apple is amazing, and I’m hardly exaggerating!“, jokes the lawyer Cédric Uzan Sarano.
Another contradiction: the reason for public health, put forward by the government to ban the flower. “The Constitutional Council issued a decision very recently, on January 7, in which it precisely defines a narcotic. He tells us that it is a psychotropic substance with an addictive effect, and harmful effects on health“. And according to him, CBD is none of that. The MILDECA observes him, without a word.
The government’s anti-drugs office also writes that cannabidiol is “psychoactive”. What makes lawyer Xavier Pizarro jump: “Madam President, recent studies have proven that looking at your dog causes a release of hormones! ». Bursts of laughter in the room.
CBD advocates are also trying to dismantle the government’s argument that CBD is banned because it can be smoked. “Mais it would then be necessary to prohibit the cigarette, this argument does not hold one second, one can close the debate! », attacks the lawyer Uzan Sarano, very effective in his speeches. His client, Aurélien Delecroix recalls that Belgium and Luxembourg consider cannabidiol as a “smoking plant”, with the same taxation as tobacco.
MILDECA struggles to be heard
The executive finally puts forward the imperative of “public order”. For him, it is impossible to authorize the CBD flower because it looks like two drops of water to a THC flower. The various unions in the sector point out the existence of rapid and inexpensive tests to make this distinction. ” Why does the government put forward the reason of public order? Because the Court of Justice of the European Union tells us that there is no public health problem. So that’s all there is left! », continues Pizarro.
In the midst of all its attacks, the government bench is struggling to be heard. It is made up of two representatives from the Ministry of Health and Valérie Saintoyant, general delegate of MILDECA. ” In France, we do not have tests capable of detecting 0.3% THC”, she answers, briefly.
The judge then asks him why make a distinction and authorize the CBD extract by prohibiting the flowers. “There is no special fate for the flowers, it is the cannabis plant as a whole which is classified under international law and French law”, answers Valérie Saintoyant. On several occasions, she deliberately uses the term “cannabis”. Opposite, we prefer “hemp”. Two words that speak of the same plant, but with very different definitions in the collective imagination.
After two hours, the president thanks everyone for these “Lights in Joy”. The lawyers all thank her for her holding of the debate, very effective it must be said. The judge in chambers will have left the floor to everyone, without rushing or stepping aside. She gives an appointment to all the parties next week, for the deliberation of the decision.