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Sébastien Béguerie: “I am finally seen as a pioneer in the industry, rather than an outlaw”

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Sébastien Béguerie, 36, was recently acquitted by the Court of Justice of the European Union, Kanavape case, after a six-year long battle against the courts in France.

In an interview with Cannareporter, Sébastien tells how he lived the last six years of legal battle and what he felt after the CJEU acquitted him, in the historic decision where he made it clear that the commercialization of CBD cannot be prohibited between EU member states. .

Born in Marseille, France, Sébastien completed his Masters in Plant Science, specializing in Horticulture and Plant Physiology, at Wageningen University Research (WUR), in the Netherlands, after obtaining a sponsorship from Bedrocan, which facilitated his access to medical cannabis research. . In 2010, he presented a poster on the clonal spread of pharmaceutical cannabis at the 28th International Congress of Horticulture in Lisbon. He is co-founder and coordinator of the Francophone Union of Cannabinoids as Medicine (UFCM), created in 2009, and CEO of Alpha Cat and Golden buds.

How did you get into the cannabis industry?

I got involved in the cannabis industry very early on through my scientific training, so I already have over 13 years of experience in this field. In 2007 I graduated in Horticulture and it was thanks to this course, which required an internship, that I managed to work at the National Institute of Agriculture, in Italy. There, I was fortunate to work with Professor Giampaolo Grassi, in the Rovigo Medical Cannabis Licensing Research Department. After finishing my degree, and with the completion of the internship, I applied for a Masters in the Netherlands, where I got a Bedrocan scholarship to continue my studies, specializing in horticulture and cannabis. I have always been very active in the field of medical cannabis and I created the first medical cannabis association in 2009 in Luxembourg, followed by its branch in France in 2012. For about eight years we managed to hold conferences on medical cannabis in Strasbourg, where we had the biggest names in cannabis science such as Ethan Russo, Professor Raphael Mechoulam, Dr. Franjo Grotenhermen, Professor Lumir Hanus, etc. And we were also lucky enough to bring them to France to educate French healthcare professionals. QWhen I finished my Master's in 2011, that's when I first came into contact with CBD, which was emerging in the cannabis science world at that time, and that's when I got the idea to get more involved in CBD, to make it available to the people. That's when, in 2014, we decided to create this new product that we called Kanavape. 

How did the problems with Kanavape arise?

When in December 2014 we publicly announced Kanavape, all the journalists went crazy and a few hours later they went to interview the French Minister of Health at that time and she replied that she would do everything in her power to stop the sale of this product and interrupt our activity. as a company. And so, in February 2015, we had a visit from the police at my office in Marseille. From there, the problem started. Two years after we went before the Marseille court, which found us guilty, we had about 18 months in prison suspended and a fine of 10 euros. Obviously we appealed the decision and when we entered the court of appeal in 2018, we asked for questions to be asked at European level. Last year, in October 2019, we were in Luxembourg and you already know the rest of the story.

How have these court cases affected your personal and professional life?

Professionally, a lot of things changed, because after that I decided to move to Prague, in the Czech Republic, where we had another company that was handling the production. The Czech Republic has offered, since I was established, a very good ecosystem for CBD business, unlike France. Personally, this situation also affected me a lot, as I was under a lot of pressure and stress. It also made me leave my own country, which was not lucky, but that's how it was.

How has your professional situation evolved since then?

During all these years, I really started my original project in the cannabis business, with the Alpha Cat, a kit for self-testing the cannabinoid profile of your cannabis product. Because of the Kanavape situation I decided to stop with that brand and focus more on Alpha Cat and develop a line of CBD and wellness products. Today we have CBD oils, capsules and cosmetics and also products with CBG (Cannabigerol) which is a new cannabinoid that is appearing on the market. There areTwo months I launched a new product, which we called “Golden buds“, which is like a Kanavape 2.0, with premium cannabis distillate and terpenes, without any additives. 

What did you feel after hearing the judgment of the CJEU? 

I felt a great relief, because I have been under a lot of stress for the last six years, with some heavy accusations from the French government on me. So, it's a big relief. I finally have the opportunity to be seen as a pioneer in the industry and in my country, rather than an outlaw, so this is excellent news and I am very happy about it. It's a great time, and not just for me, really, but for the CBD industry, which now has a bright future thanks to my case. I am very pleased with the decision of the ECJ and really looking forward to the future of the CBD industry in Europe.

How do you see the future of the CBD industry in Europe?

I'm very confident now, because the ECJ ruling put an end to all the absurd claims by the European Commission about CBD being a narcotic, which would have basically implied that CBD was a controlled substance through the pharmaceutical industry. Thank God that with my case this will be taken off the table and we can finally discuss CBD as a product that can be sold freely in the territory. Also the withdrawal of the decree in Italy, which also tried to put CBD as a narcotic, was incredible. I see a bright future for this industry. Now, all member states will have to bring their own laws to regulate this market, but eventually we will get there and we will be able to prosper and give people more jobs and well-being.

How does it feel to be a pioneer in this industry? 

Well, it's great, but it wasn't without cost. Such as a "no pain no gain”, I had to pay hefty bills at lawyers to get to this point, in addition to having endured a lot of stress. Regarding my health, it hasn't been easy since I was accused, but I'm very happy that my case can help many CBD entrepreneurs who are in the same situation. It's really amazing to see that, through my initiative, I was able to boost this incredible industry, which is just waiting to explode. So yeah, it's an incredible feeling, and I'm looking forward to seeing how this industry evolves and expands across European borders. 

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[…] Sébastien Béguerie, Adrian Gschwend, Roberto Algar, Viola Brugnatelli, Lisa Burgel or Rudolf Brenneisen are some of the speakers at the event. […]

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