French Government Vows To Shut Down Gray Market Cannabis Cafes

Several cannabis cafes have popped up around Paris over the past few weeks, exploiting a legal loophole that allows for the sale of low-THC cannabis products. But their heyday will probably be short-lived, as the French government is busily working to close the gray market cafes.

Over the past weeks, a small Parisian establishment called Cofyshop has been drawing huge crowds of people to it's unique product offerings: low-THC cannabis strains. And while cannabis remains highly restricted in France, what Cofyshop and the numerous other establishments like them are selling is legally considered hemp. Similar markets have already proven quite popular in Italy.

Cofyshop owner Joaquim Lousquy has said the weed his store sells has 0.2 percent THC content, meaning it qualifies as a legal hemp product and isn't considered marijuana under French law. He says smoking this stuff won't get you high, "but it will probably help most people feel relaxed." This quality can be attributed to the plant's higher CBD content, a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis that has been shown to have effective anti-anxiety properties. Still, he understands that telling the difference between legal and illicit cannabis is difficult.

"Our grass does indeed have the same smell and the same appearance as that with THC," Lousquy told Independent. "The police cannot tell the difference."

French authorities, it seems, aren't that interested in the differences anyway.

"We will have to review the legislation and review how we put this all in order," French health minister Agnès Buzyn said. "It is true that the 0.2 percent legislation is perhaps a little vague."

Buzyn has committed to closing the loophole that Lousquy and other entrepreneurs have been exploiting. She says these businesses are encouraging drug use and hopes to have them shut down within a few weeks.

"We’re not fighting like mad to ensure that the French stop smoking [tobacco] for them to start smoking cannabis," she said.

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President Trump's 2020 budget request includes a loophole that would let Washington, DC finally open up dispensaries for recreational cannabis. Although DC voters passed a ballot initiative to legalize recreational cannabis back in 2014, Congress has used its power over the nation's capital to prevent it from selling cannabis for recreational use. Right now, local dispensaries can only sell medical marijuana to registered patients thanks to Congress, which controls spending in the District of Columbia.

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