Two entrepreneurs from Marseille have just been sentenced for designing an electronic cigarette with a cannabis flavour. Their product was judged to infringe on medical legislation. While they had worked to design a 100% legal product, they are now facing 18 months suspended prison sentence and a 15,000-Euro fine.
In 2014, Sébastien Beguerie and Antonin Cohen, two business entrepreneurs from Marseille, worked to market the first e-cigarette that relies on legal hemp. Named Kanavape, the cannabinoid vaporiser works with hemp oil that contains CBD, but no THC, which is the ingredient known for its psychotropic effect.
Marketed as a “relaxing, stress-relief”, Kanavape drew the ire of the Minister of Health at the time, Marisol Touraine. Warned of the issue, the Marseille public prosecutor department launched an investigation. Kanavape hit the markets for a short time before being pulled from shelves in July 2016 by the ANSM, the French drug administration.
Is a hemp vaping device considered a medical product?
The courts decided that the product did not have the characteristics to be considered medical. The company, from the start, had worked to link their product to the French Union for Cannabinoids in Medicine. Yet, the courts determined that their product was trivializing the use of a controlled substance.
The two entrepreneurs were not as careful as they could have been in terms of product marketing. They called Kanavape a therapeutic aid on one hand, and a stress-relief product for heavy cannabis users on the other. Manufactured in the Czech Republic from hemp, the oil used was not recognized as therapeutically valid.
During the trial, their decision to term the product “medicine” was firmly rejected. Considered by the ANSM as a simple consumer product, the vaping device had no legal foundation. The sentence delivered was harsh, most likely to dissuade others from attempting similar business practices. The courts will deliver their final sentence on January 8th. Interestingly, the Minister of Health judged another product, colloquially known as the electronic joint, as perfectly legal last week.