Since the European Union ruled France’s ban on CBD to be unconstitutional, there has been a rush to get into cultivating hemp for CBD. Many farmers are enthusiastic about the potential of this new crop, including Jean-Marie Moëllo, who’s going it alone as an independent. Here we listen to his story and find out how the former truck driver made the conversion from trucking bitumen to growing hemp.
The French are enthusiastic about cannabis, and one French Farmer, Jean-Marie Moëllo, is one of them. “Living off your products is fantastic!” he exclaims from the middle of his sun-drenched plot where, for two years, he has been growing hemp to produce cannabidiol, or CBD, a legal “light cannabis” whose consumption is exploding in France.
This work environment has not always been his home, however. Jean-Marie Moëllo, 36, drove bitumen trucks for seven years before starting professional retraining in parallel. The bitumen, “it does not smell the same,” smiles the thirty-something French Farmer.
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The Lure of CBD For a French Farmer
“This market attracts so many people that you have to be in it as soon as possible,” remarks the French Farmer in the middle of his plants.
It was when he came across a Facebook post in 2018 that he thought of changing his profession. So, after an obstacle course, convincing a bank, and attempting to understand the legislation in force, Mr. Moëllo joined the small but growing club of French Farmers cultivating CBD.
“My goal is to harvest 50 kilos of flowers in October, so to earn 50,000 euros,” explains the new farmer, based in Brittany in western France.
According to the hemp union, the number of growers has grown from just 50 in 2018 to around 600 today. And among them, “30 to 40% are neo-farmers”, explains Aurélien Delecroix, the president of the union. “There are still a lot of cannabis enthusiasts in France; we’re not going to hide it: being able to cultivate cannabis legally has given birth to many vocations,” says Mr. Delecroix.
The French Farmer Walks a Fine Line
The main difference between recreational cannabis and CBD, so-called “wellness” or “cannabis light,” is the content of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the molecule with psychoactive effects. The threshold not to be exceeded in France is 0.3% THC.
“The regulatory and legal aspect has slowed the development of the number of producers. It must be understood that until November 2020, producers incurred a penalty for drug trafficking”, explains Aurélien Delecroix.
The tipping point, according to him, is the “Kanavape affair,” where an electronic cigarette with oil containing CBD had earned a suspended prison sentence for its creators.
The case went to the Court of Justice of the European Union, which delivered its judgment in November 2020: CBD cannot be considered a narcotic, having “no psychotropic effect or harmful effect on the human health.”
France, forced to respect the principle of the free movement of goods and services, cannot, therefore, prohibit its marketing.
“The Kanavape affair remotivated us and gave us hope,” explains Jean-Marie Moëllo, who nevertheless deplores “the gray areas” concerning the CBD legislation. In December, the government banned the sale of flowers before being reauthorized by the Council of State.
Going it Alone
“It’s difficult to project yourself,” denounces the farmer. “I do as it comes, but if one day the legislation becomes too restrictive, I will get back into trucks, so I’m more like no stress,” he continues.
“For the moment, I am within my rights, and it makes me happy to do good to people,” says Mr. Moëllo, who cites among his clients a man who no longer has an ophthalmic migraine since he consumes his CBD or a woman who suffers less from her osteoarthritis. “I’m not a doctor, but it does the job!” he proclaims proudly.
If he remains cautious while waiting to see how the legislation evolves, Jean-Marie Moëllo is hopeful: “When we see the current economic situation, when we see the number of ailments from which people suffer, I tell myself that CBD has good days ahead of him.”
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First published by Sciences et Avenir, a third-party contributor translated and adapted the article from the original. In case of discrepancy, the original will prevail.
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