Police in Antwerp have closed down Gano, the shop opened the same day by singer Ian Thomas, which was selling cannabis oil, full name cannabidiol or CBD.
CBD is a product of the leaves of the hemp plant, but contains none of the active ingredient THC which gives marijuana its psychoactive properties.
Thomas’s pop-up shop on the Kloosterstraat in Antwerp had received much advance publicity, in part because of his celebrity, and in part because he was openly selling CBD, which is otherwise only obtainable legally from pharmacists.
No sooner was the shop opened, however, before it received a visit from ten police officers, who examined the products on sale before closing the shop and putting a police seal on the door, which it is illegal to break without permission from an investigating magistrate.
A police spokesperson later said the investigation concerned breaches of the food safety laws, as well as the lack of certain permits required to open a shop.
Proponents of CBD, including Thomas, claim it has healing properties, but does not produce a “high” in the user or lead to dependency. “CBD has a healing action, and does so much good for the body, which is why I wanted to introduce it to people,” Thomas told De Morgen. “But in Belgium they don’t believe in the effects. It’s still seen as a drug by too many people. And now, here we are, the police are already here. Unbelievable!”
Thomas’s business partner Ina Averhals argued the question of permits did not arise. “We’re renting the premises for one week. As a pop-up, we don’t need a registration number. That’s what they told us at the commune.”
The alleged breach of food safety laws is more serious. The shop was selling its products as food supplements, as is done in the Netherlands and other countries. But food products in Belgium require the permission of the food safety agency Afsca/FAVV.
“We sell essential oils, where it is stated clearly that they are not for consumption,” Averhals said. “Our ultimate goal is to sell CBD as a food supplement, but that wasn’t the intention of the pop-up store. This week we wanted to let people get to know CBD oils, so that the perception of the product might be expanded. Now we’re asking the government for clear rules we can stick to. In plenty of other European countries the sale of cannabis oil is regulated, it’s only in Belgium that things remain vague regarding what can and what can’t be done.”