Belgium Regulates the Consumption of CBD Flower

The government of Belgium has taken the decision to regulate the sale of dried hemp flowers. Considered a smokeable product, CBD flowers will now be regulated like tobacco products.

A decree signed by the Federal Public Service Finance (FPS Finance) dated 11 April 2019 states that “the products destined to be smoked and in which the THC content is inferior to 0.2% are considered as tobacco products and will therefore be taxed as such.”

This mimics the approach of Switzerland, where legal hemp flowers are considered ‘tobacco substitutes’ and face a tobacco retail tax of 25%. Acceptance of CBD flower as a smokeable product remains rare across Europe, with ‘cannabis light’ products proliferating in countries such as Austria and Italy only thanks to legal loopholes, and countries such as the UK prohibiting the sale of hemp flower outright.

In Switzerland, CBD flower and cigarettes are sold in supermarkets like Lidl. Photograph: Lidl Schweiz

In Switzerland, CBD flower and cigarettes are sold in supermarkets like Lidl. Photograph: Lidl Schweiz


On top of taxation requirements, Belgian CBD products will also need to comply with the rest of tobacco product legislation, such as those relating to production and retail. The decree also notes that other CBD products, such as oils, food supplements, other foodstuffs, and cosmetics are not considered as tobacco products.

These other products remain illegal under Belgian law, except under special derogation. A waiver for some hemp-derived products - including hemp oils, flours, and food seeds - can be given by the Federal Public Service Health (FPS Health), if they can be shown to contain less than 0.2% THC.

Belgium’s recent announcement adds to the patchwork of laws governing the production and sale of non-medical CBD products across Europe. At the European Union level, the use of CBD and other cannabinoid extracts is considered to be ‘novel’ in food and food supplements - with any such product requiring EU authorisation before it can placed in the market. To date, no such product has received authorisation. Despite this requirement, in reality, all manner of CBD products continue to be sold across Europe with individual countries adopting varying approaches to regulation and enforcement.

Even amongst Belgium's closet neighbours, differing treatments of CBD products are seen. The French government claims, for example, that all CBD products made from the leaves and flowers of the hemp plant are prohibited, although industry lobbying attempts are underway to amend this position. In Germany and the Netherlands, by contrast, CBD supplements are widely available throughout pharmacies and chain stores such as drogerie markt, Holland & Barrett, and Albert Heijn.  Neighbouring Luxembourg also freely permits the sale of CBD flowers alongside its newly-formed medical cannabis programme, and made global news by announcing this past fall that it will become the first European country to legalise the use of recreational cannabis for adult residents.

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