On 19 November 2020 the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled in a landmark decision that the cannabidiol (CBD) is not a narcotic, as it did not appear to have any psychotropic effect or any harmful effect on human health.

CJEU stated that CBD is not mentioned in either the Convention on Psychotropic Substances or the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs to which the European Union law makes reference in order to define the terms ‘drug’ or ‘narcotic drug’. It added that “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 fiber and seeds” and that “the provisions on the free movement of goods within the European Union (Articles 34 and 36 TFEU) are applicable, since the CBD at issue in the main proceedings cannot be regarded as a ‘narcotic drug’.” EU law therefore precludes national legislation such as certain national bans on hemp-derived CBD.

The ruling that follows the KanaVape court case that commenced in 2014 is a boost to the CBD sector in Europe as the decision will advance CBD regulations in EU, laying a clearer route to regulatory compliance for CBD companies.

The ruling will have deeper consequences for the CBD industry in Europe. One example would be that only synthetic cannabinoids are allowed in cosmetic products as CBD extracted from plants was, until now, considered a narcotic under the terms of international conventions. Some countries, such as France, already revised their approach to CBD, whereas others will still have to.