France is seeking to stamp out a new electronic cigarette containing cannabis, launched on Tuesday with the claim it provides all of the relaxation, but none of the mind-altering effects of marijuana.
French Minister of Health, Youth and Sports Marisol Touraine said the product would “incite the consumption of cannabis” and that she intended calling on the courts to ban it.
“I am opposed to such a product being commercialized in France,” she said on RTL radio.
The product was launched by a French-Czech company called Kanavape, which said it hopes to offer “millions of people a legal and flavorful way to consume cannabis.”
Smoking e-cigarettes, or “vaping,” is fashionable in France, and while people have long since figured out how to doctor them to smoke marijuana — as evidenced by hundreds of YouTube videos on the subject — Kanavape claims its product is 100 percent legal.
Antonin Cohen, one of the two producers of the Kanavape, told journalists at the launch that it “has no psychotic or psychotropic effects and cannot be considered an alternative to a joint.”
The company extracts cannabidiol — a compound in cannabis that does not contain the mind-altering THC ingredient — from hemp, a variety of cannabis grown for fiber and seeds.
“Kanavape is a hemp vaporizer, a variety which has no recreational use because it does not contain THC,” or tetrahydrocannabinol, which creates euphoria by stimulating cells in the brain to release dopamine, Cohen said.
The hemp is grown on farms in France, Spain and the Czech Republic without chemicals or fertilizer, the company says on its Web site.
“The virtues of cannabidiol are many, particularly with benefits for stress, relaxation [and] sleep,” the company said.
Cohen said the concentration of the extract was very low and that the product was aimed “at consumers of electronic cigarettes and people who smoke tobacco or other substances.”
Addiction specialists and even members of the pro-medical marijuana lobby were skeptical about Kanavape.
“They are just releasing a product for buzz, to attract attention,” said Fabienne Lopez, the head of an association which promotes the medical use of cannabis.
She expressed reservations about the therapeutic effects of the product, fearing it could create confusion among those who were seriously ill and looking for pain relief.
According to the French Observatory for Drugs and Addiction, about 1.2 million people in France regularly smoke cannabis — that is, more than 10 times a month.
Recreational use of marijuana is still illegal in France, but the country now allows the drug’s active ingredients to be used for medical purposes.
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