In some parts of the world CBD is everywhere: in beverages, beauty products, even in pet treats. But not in France, which has some of Europe’s strictest drug laws. French authorities have been cracking down on CBD sellers, but shops continue to pop up in what is seen as a lucrative market.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of substances in the cannabis plant. CBD cannabis is said to contain only traces of THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana – what gets you high.
Proponents of CBD claim it treats ailments like epilepsy and Multiple sclerosis, and provides a calming effect on those suffering from anxiety and depression.
But in France, sellers are not allowed to make such claims.
“We are not doctors, or pharmacists, so we can’t say it helps this or that problem,” says Maxime Brunet, in his shop in Caen, in northern France. He has customers who have read online that CBD could help their illnesses.
“But the problem is that in France, it’s not recognised. So we cannot say, take this or that herb,” he says. He is, however, allowed to say that CBD can be relaxing, like herbal tea.
On the glass counter in front of him is a row of jars with buds in them, labelled with names like silver bud, Swiss cheese, or tropical haze. There are signs stating that the buds are not to be smoked. Instead, there are instructions on how to brew them into tea. Though he says what his clients do with the flowers is up to them.
Brunet is careful to toe the line of French law, which prohibits even the promotion of anything having to do with marijuana. Images of cannabis leaves can get you in trouble, so the shop’s logo is a cannabis-looking leaf with five points. Real cannabis has seven.
“Our logo… is a teacup with a leaf. And it’s not a cannabis leaf,” he says. “That way it’s less explicit.”
Despite the precautions, Brunet has run into legal trouble. Along with this shop in Caen, he and his business partners – his brother and father – have three others, in Lisieux, in Nantes and in Le Mans.