This article originally appeared on VICE France
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is one of the most vital components of cannabis – it's the stuff that gets you high and has the biggest effect on your mood, thoughts and behaviour. That's why, in many European countries, it's illegal to sell cannabis or any drug that contains more than 0.2 percent of THC.
Swiss businessman Jonas Duclos has recently found a way around that law, and hopes to become the biggest legal weed seller in Europe. In April of 2017, Duclos and his partners Kévin Goetelen and Bruno Studer took advantage of more lenient cannabis laws in Switzerland to launch their company, CBD420. Today, its products are sold in nearly 700 shops in their home country, and for over a month stores in France have been stocking the 31-year-old's BlueDream – a medicinal weed that doesn't contain more than 0.2 percent of THC.
To produce this strain, Duclos focused on further developing another component of cannabis: cannabidiol (CBD). So far, CBD isn't known to have psychoactive properties or side effects, but research has shown it can alleviate the effects of inflammation, depression and anxiety. It's also been seen to help patients suffering from multiple sclerosis, as well as various other ailments.
After conquering the French market, Duclos wants to take the rest of Europe. His company's ultimate goal is to make cannabis that is both "fun to smoke, and medicinal" as accessible as possible. I spoke with him to find out more about his plans to take his legal weed global.
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VICE: Why did you decide to go into the weed business?
Jonas Duclos: Because I honestly believe it has real therapeutic benefits. I know this personally – I've been using cannabis as a painkiller for many years, to help deal with some health problems I've had since I was 15. Later, I became interested in industrial hemp. Europe has been producing it for centuries, to make things such as paper and boats sails, and we can even find it in the insulation of our houses. The opportunity to produce BlueDream came when Swiss law increased the maximum THC concentration levels from 0.2 percent to 1 percent. That meant that we could suddenly create a product that was great to smoke, but also didn't break the law.
But the law hasn't changed in France, and the maximum legal concentration of THC is still 0.2 percent. So why are you able to sell your weed in the country?
We developed our product further so that the weed we're selling in France has very low levels of THC, but a very high dose of CBD. Most people attribute the effects of cannabis only to THC, but it's the CBD that makes you feel really relaxed after smoking a joint.
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At the moment, there are about 700,000 people who use cannabis daily in France. Is that why you are excited about getting into the business? Of course there's a financial side to it. When we started our company, my business partners and I invested around 100,000 CHF (£76,000) of our own money into the business. Seven months later, our turnover is over a million (£760,000).
Clearly, the worldwide market for cannabis is enormous. After France, we want to distribute in Italy, then Portugal and then in every other European country. We're also watching the development of the cannabis market in the United States, and the companies that are active, at various levels, in states that have legalised weed, such as Colorado, California and Oregon.
How do people react when you tell them you make a living selling weed?
We're not exactly drug dealers – all we're doing is offering a new product that we know will help a range of people. Also, the people closest to me are not surprised by my career path – they know how much medicinal weed has helped me personally, and how long I've been advocating for its wider use.