Update, June 29, 2018: Both “coffee shops” were raided by the police and closed. Health Minister Agnés Buzyn said the shops had taken advantage of a legal gray area. To read about if marijuana is legal in Paris, check out this article.
From New York to Paris, a new drug phenomenon is gaining quiet traction as the fight to legalize marijuana continues.
In Paris this month, two “coffee shops” have opened claiming to sell “legal weed,” known colloquially as “le weed light.” The first, called Cofyshop, is bringing light weed to Paris’s trendy 11th arrondissement, and the other, E-Klop, is located in one of Paris’s western suburbs. The green they’re selling is hardly distinguishable from traditional bud, but the owners say that because it is CBD heavy and low on THC, they are perfectly within their legal right to sell it. This specificity stems from a softening of French drug laws earlier this year determining that weed may be sold if it contains less than 0.2% THC.
Time for a quick science lesson. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the chemical in marijuana that contains the majority of weed’s psychoactive properties. Now, strains can be grown that contain very little THC, but if that’s what gets you the desired high, then what’s the point of smoking it? It’s still worth it because low-THC weed still contains high amounts of cannabidiol or CBD, a non-psychoactive chemical that produces a relaxed feeling and is thought to possibly help with depression or anxiety.
Despite this loophole, products sold at these new shops are officially not meant for consumption, with most of the packaging labeled “Do Not Smoke.” The products are made from hemp and consist of everything from massage oils, teas, and syrups, to good old-fashioned bud, going at a rate of €11.50 and €13 per gram. The concept is nearly comical in its up-frontness, with long queues of people lining up to buy “herbal remedies for their ailing family members.” But the French Health Authority isn’t buying it. New reports from the Authority are saying that if it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck, it’s probably a gateway drug.
Twenty-nine-year-old Joaquim Lousquy, owner of Cofyshop, didn’t realize how much of a cash cow he had created until the shop’s opening, when he had to hire two bodyguards to manage the hundreds of people waiting in line for the grand opening. The store has not been able to keep up with demand, but the next time they run out of stock it might not be from overeager stoners. French authorities have opened an investigation into the store’s operations, with the Paris Narcotics Brigade on red alert. France’s Minister of Health Agnès Buzyn is vehemently anti-CBD, and has publicly stated that she intends to close the loophole allowing stores to sell it.
France has some of the strictest drug laws in all of Europe, yet it also has some of the highest marijuana consumption rates in Europe. As legalization of weed becomes normalized in countries like the Netherlands and U.S. states like California and Colorado, lawmakers will have to fight harder to quell the demands of the people. The truth is, not everybody in France is satisfied with a glass of wine at dinner. Parisians are clearly ready for legalized marijuana in some form or other. How long it takes the French government to be is the only thing still unclear.