The European Court of Justice (ECJ), the EU’s highest court, ruled on November 19th that cannabidiol (CBD) derived from the entire hemp plant was not a narcotic under applicable law. The ECJ found: “the CBD at issue …is not a drug.”

The case involved a CBD product lawfully produced in the Czech Republic being transferred for marketing and sale in France, which had prohibited such activities. French authorities launched criminal proceedings against two individuals involved, sanctioning them with a suspended prison sentence. Meanwhile, the hemp-derived CBD in the products was never found to have the psychoactive THC beyond a legally-permissible threshold. The individuals appealed their convictions on the grounds that France’s prohibition on CBD marketing was contrary to EU law.

The ECJ held that France’s restrictions on CBD marketing were not in line with the free market for goods across EU Member States. According to the ECJ, should French authorities wish to pursue such trade limitations on CBD products in the future, the means chosen must “be confined to what is actually necessary to ensure the safeguarding of public health” and be proportional to the objective pursued, which could not have been attained without such trade limitations.