Cannabis in France – Laws, Use, and History

French laws are conservative when it comes to cannabis use and possession. Unusually for an EU country, they do not yet have a medicinal cannabis programme. However, the introduction of Macron’s ‘on the spot fine’ for cannabis users indicates a gradual shift in attitude. Despite their strict laws, France remains a major producer of hemp and cannabis.

    • Capital
    • Paris
    • Population
    • 65,721,000
    • CBD Products
    • Legal under 0.2% THC
    • Recreational cannabis
    • Illegal
    • Medicinal cannabis
    • Legal

Cannabis laws in France

Can you possess and use cannabis in France?

French law forbids the use or possession of cannabis. It also makes no distinction between possession for personal use or for trafficking. Instead, offenders are dealt with based on the quantity of cannabis they’re caught with, and their individual circumstances.

Depending on the situation, the prosecutor may choose to close the case without punishment. They also have the right to propose alternatives to punishment, such as a treatment programme. Legal action can be taken if appropriate.

If charged with personal use of cannabis, the offender may face a fine of up to €3,750 and a prison sentence of up to one year. This may be waived for minors. If the offender is found to have endangered others while using cannabis (for example, being under the influence while working in a position of responsibility for others) the maximum sentence is increased to five years, and the fine increased to €75,000.

In 2008, a ‘rapid and graduated’ policy was introduced. This means that in straightforward cases, cannabis users may receive a caution and be required to attend a drug awareness course. If they’re not dependent on cannabis, they may have to pay up to €450.

The law changed again in 2018, when the government introduced a new policy, giving police the power to issue on-the-spot fines of €200 for those caught using cannabis. However, Interior Minister Gerard Collomb emphasised that the new policy does not decriminalise the use of the drug, and that being given a fine will not guarantee that no further legal action is taken.

Can you sell cannabis in France?

Like many other countries, France takes a more severe approach with those selling or distributing cannabis. If caught trafficking cannabis, the offender could be subject to up to ten years in prison and a €7.5million fine. These sentences could be doubled if the offender was selling to minors or selling near an educational establishment.

Can you grow cannabis in France?

Despite the fact that France has a thriving industry in hemp and cannabis production, it is still illegal for people in the country to grow cannabis plants. If caught doing so, the offender could be liable to up to 20 years in prison, or a fine of up to €7.5 million.

The law doesn’t make exceptions on this. Even if the individual only uses the cannabis grown for personal, medicinal purposes, it is still regarded as a punishable offence. However, in reality, very few cannabis cultivators have received the maximum penalty. Those who receive large prison sentences are usually those who are involved in large-scale growing activity.

Is CBD legal in France?

CBD oil doesn’t contain enough THC (the substance responsible for the ‘high’) to be psychoactive. Therefore (technically), the French government permits the use and sale of CBD products in the country. The Interministerial Mission Against Drugs and Addictive Behaviour (MILDECA) has clarified that it’s only permitted if:

  • the THC levels are 0.2% or less
  • the products are made from approved types of (low-THC) hemp plants.

Can cannabis seeds be sent to France?

Cannabis seeds can be purchased and sold in most European countries, which includes France. They can also be sent into the country via the post. However, it’s illegal to germinate the seeds, so it’s not allowed to grow plants from them.

Medicinal cannabis in France

France continues to adopt a conservative stance on medicinal cannabis, and it is not yet legal, though Sativex is available on prescription (in theory). Sativex was authorised in 2014, yet by 2018, it was still not available, due to pricing disputes between the producers and the country’s authorities.

Health Minister Agnes Buzyn openly stated her support for a medicinal cannabis programme, but as yet, no such programme has been created. However, in September 2018, the French National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products (ANSM) launched a scientific committee (CSST), evaluating the feasibility of a medicinal cannabis programme in the country. Their findings concluded that it would be “appropriate to authorise the use of therapeutic cannabis…/… in certain clinical situations and in cases where (existing) therapies provide insufficient relief or are not well tolerated.”

It’s estimated that France has somewhere between 300,000 to 1 million patients that could benefit from cannabis-based medicinal products. Due to lack of availability on prescription, the concern is that a large number of these patients are turning to the black market to get their supply.

Industrial hemp in France

France has been cultivating hemp for centuries. Until the 1800s, over 100,000 hectares of French land was used to produce it; and the harvested hemp was turned into linen, rope, natural oil and fabric.

After this time, hemp production started to decline, until it reached just 700 hectares in 1960. There are a few reasons for this. Sail boats were no longer widely used (hemp was ideal for creating sails and rigging), and synthetic fibres started dominating the market; not to mention cotton and other fibres arriving from overseas.

Since then, the industry has recovered. At the start of the 21st century, there were around 6,000 hectares of hemp plantations; mostly in La Loire and La Sarthe. Most of the hemp was used to produce paper.

France’s hemp strains yield (on average) eight tonnes of straw per hectare. According to Prohibition Partners’ European Cannabis Report, the country is now the world leader in hemp seed production and is responsible for producing 59% of the world’s seeds. It also dominates the hemp fibre market, producing over 50% of all hemp-based pulp and paper in Europe.

Political parties and cannabis

Very few of France’s political parties are in favour of legalising cannabis, though most do acknowledge its medicinal benefits. President Emmanuel Macron has spoken out in support of limited cannabis reforms, such replacing prison sentences by on-the-spot fines. The government emphasises that this is a pragmatic approach to reduce time spent by police, and that it should not be viewed as a first step towards decriminalisation.

There are notable exceptions, though. Socialist MP Daniel Vaillant, former Minister of the Interior, proposed legalisation of cannabis in Le Parisien in 2009. Cecile Duflot (Minister of Territorial Equality) and Vincent Peillon (Minister for Education), also put forward a case for legalisation, stating that it was a better solution than continuing the ‘war on drugs’. They were called to order by the government, and their comments were regarded as ‘not subject to debate’.

Another party worthy of note is Cannabis Sans Frontières, which is led by the renowned activist Farid Ghehioueche. The party has been represented in European and legislative elections, though representatives gathered less than 1% of the votes in each instance.

Good to know

If you are travelling to France (or are a resident of the country), it is useful to know the following:

Cannabis history

Cannabis was widely available at the turn of the 19th century, when French forces returned from Egypt with hashish and cannabis. As the century progressed, cannabis use became more fashionable, particularly within intellectual circles.

Many of the country’s most celebrated authors and philosophers wrote about their experience of using drugs (including cannabis). Victor Hugo, Charles Baudelaire, Pierre Gautier and Alexandre Dumas were all members of the infamous Club des Hachischins, which was dedicated to the exploration of drug-induced states.

Cannabis didn’t become popular with the masses until the 1960s, when servicemen returned from Vietnam. Then, the drug became an important part of the hippie counterculture movement, and its popularity began to take off.

The modern cannabis trade

France does not produce hashish domestically, though it does cultivate illegal herbal cannabis.

Much of France’s hashish is trafficked into the country from Morocco. Dutch cannabis is also prevalent, though Dutch exports have declined in recent years, due the increasingly restrictive laws in the Netherlands.

France is also a transit point for drugs destined for the UK, the Netherlands, Italy and Belgium.

Paris’s coffeeshops

In 2018, two French entrepreneurs made the most of the government’s relaxing of cannabis laws (which permitted the sale of cannabis products containing 0.2% THC or less) and opened two Dutch-style ‘coffeeshops’.

Joaquim Lousquy, the owner of Cofyshop, told The Telegraph: “There’s no psychotropic effect. It isn’t a medicine or a relaxant. I wouldn’t advertise anyone to smoke cannabis. We sell it like any other item, just like a furniture shop sells tables or chairs.”

Stephane Bélaiche, who runs E-Klop (a similar establishment) said to The Telegraph: “I don’t sell CBD products so they can be smoked in a joint, but so that people can find another flavour to enjoy.

However, both shops have experienced protest from locals and the authorities alike. MP Pacome Rupin visited one of the shops and informed French reporters that he was ‘closely watching’ its activities. Also, neighbouring residents have complained about the shop. “It smells of hashish in the street,” one local commented. “It wafts up into our flat.”

Cannabis events in France

France hosts several major cannabis events throughout the year. These include:

  • UFCM I-Care. UFCM I-Care was originally started in 2012, by Bertrand Rambaud. It’s one of the continent’s most important medicinal cannabis conferences, and gives experts from around the world the chance to share their expertise and experience.
  • Cannabis Europa Paris. Policymakers, scientists, academics and international cannabis companies attend Cannabis Europa Paris for the chance to exchange ideas and listen to key speakers in the field.
  • Cannabis Business France. This two-day event focuses on the cannabis and hemp market in France, with a view to educating entrepreneurs about the opportunities in the industry. It’s also marketed as a networking event.

Coming soon?

  • Canamour. This new cannabis event, scheduled for 2020, looks like it will offer an expo/conference experience, focusing on both the cannabis and hemp industry. No further details are known, though it seems the event will be held in Marseille.

Will it be legalised in the future?

Given France’s conservative attitude to the use of cannabis, it seems unlikely that it will be made legal any time soon. However, it is possible that a proper medicinal cannabis programme might be established in the near future – based largely on mounting public pressure.

  • Disclaimer:
    While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this article, it is not intended to provide legal advice, as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

Comments

50 thoughts on “Cannabis in France – Laws, Use, and History”

  1. Hopefully it’s more than just a move to allow the sale of cannabis sold by pharmaceutical companies like GW Pharama.

    1. The modification of the law happened in a very complex situation in regard to cannabis but there is no shadow of a doubt this is made to allow Sativex-like treatment. The announcement by the Health Minister a few months ago to allow cannabinoids-based medicine concerned the request of authorisation filed by Almirall for Sativex. The opposition to this measure still sees it as an opening for a decriminalisation of the use altogether, which can explain the government’s decision not to create any confusion. Cannabis is now considered a medicine in France but the harsh penalties for consumers are still effective if they don’t use the authorised forms of cannabis.

    1. Roseann Iles

      I live in Germany also. I know that Cannabis is used here for the treatment of MS. My husband suffers from severe depression. I believe all of the medicines he had taken did more harm than good. Twelve years ago he had a “breakdown.” He smoked a little pot as an experiment….he came out of his depression almost instantly! It was like a miracle! I wand the opportunity to see if it works again! Has anyone had this experience???

    1. CHRIS STEVE

      I am truly glad to glance at this blog posts which includes plenty of
      valuable facts, thanks for providing these kinds of information.

  2. This is amazing news.

    It can only have a positive effect on the whole of Europe now, I hope.

    Well done France.

  3. Chirag Bharucha

    I wish to see this one day…!
    Newsflash – Medicinal use of cannabis legalised in India!

    1. Hello!

      Why not wish for “Newsflash – Traditional use of cannabis legalised in India!”, after all, the use of cannabis is century old in your country and it served the medicinal use as well as the social one.

      Hoping that day will come soon.

  4. Nice development, now I wait for a global decision that Cannabis is not a drug but a herbal efficient medicine. The UN must change their definition of Cannabis as a drug!

    THE REPORT. CANNABIS: THE FACTS, HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE LAW
    ISBN 9781902848204.

    Denial of cannabis by Prohibition ‘law’ premeditatedly inflicts suffering, blindness, and, in many instances, death. Those who maintain any use of life-saving cannabis to be “illegal” should be regarded and treated as perpetrators of the gravest of crimes, and deemed unfit to hold any public office in a democratic society.

    The Report collates Empirical Evidence and the Findings of Fact of official clinical studies which exonerate cannabis and vindicate all cultivation, trade, possession and use. The Report establishes massive ulterior money-motive and prejury behind prohibition; and indicts government.

    The Report presents irrefutable Legal Grounds for Restoration: Relegalisation, Amnesty & Restitution.

    And here is the proof for Cannabis as an medicament, already documented in the UN, well I mean this science is from the late 50’s, since then they lied on us and denied us all from this medicine:

  5. Well done France!? Yet still our Uk Gov is sat
    doing… Hmm, what do they do?..
    David Cammeron, do the right thing,
    You little sheep BRING ON THE GANJA!

    Gfm.

  6. So SATIVEX will be accepted by the French.. But WEED still aint and it will never allow you to produce your own plants/medicin/drug… So wtf..

  7. Nicolas Thetiot

    Unbelievable!! Have to check that info . As said previously it may concern only synthetic thc..not so good news if so..just to make big pharmaceutical profitsand

  8. Sorry for m’y french comment.

    La meilleure nouvelle depuis des années !
    J’espère aussi que cela va se généraliser à toute l’Europe et que tous ceux qui ont posté un commentaire avant moi pourront bientôt en profiter.

  9. Peter Reynolds

    Nicolas! Sativex IS cannabis. It’s not synthetic.

    In any system of law, any definition of Sativex which distinguishes it from cannabis is false. Therefore, this is excellent progress and will lead to reform.

  10. Damien higgins

    Delighted I’m in ireland hopwfully it will happen on the uk and then hopwfully over here!!!!

  11. i live in France and i hope they will legalize for good like Holland free legalization ifs cigarette’s free why not weed? let us smoke it, its on nature so with which authority do they fuck people on it? all government it’s illegal

  12. Best Handheld Vaporizer

    I smoke marijuana because I have excruciating pain, it is the medicine that needs recognition and to be truthful I have never come upon a violent stoner!

    Im about to hit the bong man!

  13. cannaviking

    we have legalized it on the satives form here in norway too…. still just for MS patients…
    me thats using opiods dosages that can kill a horse have problems get it,have seriuosly illnesess…like cluster head aches,ADHD,PTSD,and no recently ATN-Atypical trigeminal neuralgia..
    i am nagging on my doc to prescrribe sativex to me,he want to.but are tied by a law that he requierws either a shrink or a neuroligist to give it out….

    SHOULD PPL DIE,OR SUFFER MORE FOR THE SHOPPING TRETIES/DEALS THAT ARE THREATNED BY THE HEMP…

    it’s fucked up…. they made it ilegal cuz of the fibers,and some scared cotton farmers.. then to ,now they even hit hard on the industriell hemp do to they are afraid you can get high from that…..
    but the thing we can get high on-medicated- becomes legally in meds when bayer-GW took out ownership on thc and cbd…

    sorry,if im a bit confusing….up all day ,and time to hit the sack…
    just annoyed over how ppl suffers and get addicted on stuff they get very sick from if they dont havve….
    ppl arent getting si ck from the illness..no no… hook us on their drugs,be a state sponsered junkie …insted of living a normal life with just a herb….and maybe some small amounts of opiods if shit gets to bad…

    FUCK OF AND BURN IN HELL MR ENSLINGER!!!

  14. Hi there, You’ve done an excellent job. I will definitely digg it and personally recommend to my friends. I’m sure they will be benefited from
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  15. loriot alban

    shame on us (I am french). 2 centuries ago there was a big war between Chinese and English for the same reason, and China has lost Hong Kong for 150 years. And now my own president just declare the war to his own peoples. Why ? To still even more money from them. Shame shame shame on us

  16. loriot alban

    By the way, each time that a country has done this in the past England France and Japan, it was to collect money to finance a war (and usually they don’t do this to they own citizens). Is it to finance the Malian war that Holland has open drugs supermarket ? Will they be an other war behind ? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Opium_War http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Opium_War

  17. This will never happen in France,
    They might synthesized a molecule inspired on the THC or CBD structural architecture to
    develop a new medicine but…
    They will never let people use the marijuana for medical use as they did in some US states.

    Anyway the general use of Majijuana in France is already recognized, this is a tricky and useless law.

    PADDYSEEDS MAN

  18. i just wondered if anyone knows the legalities of collecting cannabis seeds in france, if some one was to order some collectable seeds from a websight out of france is it legal to have them sent to a french adress and keep them? (no growing involved)
    thanks

  19. Caroline Channing

    Isn’t it funny how strictly controlled it is, like it would give you a life threatening high!! Yet in this form there is no HTC which is only released on heating/burning. But in a mouth spray, it’s just a very, very healthy tonic. What a pantomime!

  20. cat health issues

    It’s going to be end of mine day, except before ending I am reading this impressive piece of writing to increase my know-how.

  21. Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is a very well written article.
    I’ll make sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful info.
    Thanks for the post. I will certainly return.

  22. Je cherche désespérément le schéma de culture pour l’éclairage des graines autofloraisante et automatic.veuillez me répondre sur ma boite mail merçi beaucoup.

  23. iwantobelieve

    French law is clearly outdated & over repressive…
    This is the Will of alcoohol brands & pharmaceutical industries.
    Not easy to change anything vs these two giants in our country.
    But i still hope about getting our rights back…

  24. Michael Purcell

    My name is Mike Purcell Architect and Property Developer, I am interested in finding a “hemp” affiliate opportunity where I may send my customers to my hemp affiliate website where they may purchase hemp for their insulation project and when they buy product I earn a commission. Please advise if you could put me in touch with such an organisation

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hello Mike, thank you for your comment.

      I have forwarded your enquiry to HempFlax.

      With best wishes,

      Scarlet

    2. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hello again Mike,

      This is the reply I received from HempFlax regarding your enquiry:

      We don’t have these affiliated programms yet. For insulation is very difficult to do that abroad. Shipping costs are too high, especially less then a truck load will be expensive. For that reason we are marketing our building products by offering it to whole sale who are accepting full truckloads.

      I hope this is enough information for you, if not, please contact HempFlax at info@hempflax.com

      With best wishes,

      Scarlet

  25. Veronica Harris

    Hi,
    I live in The Gers in SW France and I have 16 arcres of land and was wondering if I could grow Hemp
    The soil is clay based, and I am not sure if it would grow well enough to make it financially viable.
    Do you know of any organissation that can offer help, advice?
    Your help would be much appreciated.
    Regards
    Veronica

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hello Veronica,

      Thank you for your comment, and your interest in hemp! 🙂 I recommend that you get in touch with HempFlax, our industrial hemp sister company, at info@hempflax.com and hopefully they can give you some help and advice.

      With best wishes,

      Scarlet

  26. do you need a license off French government to grow hemp? as have small 4 acres i would love to grow hemp on in south.

  27. I was married to a french girl for a wile, and as a California native i was amazed how little stoner culture there was. Maybe due to the as-mentioned ban on positive depiction of “drugs” ; even in the beach communities i noticed no cannabis culture. This from one of the most liberal alcohol cultures in the world. 🙁

  28. I think it’s a shameful cover up by the big pharmaceutical industry, and brewery’s with so many people in their back pockets, . Why isn’t alcohol banned,???? Because it can be controlled by money, money buys people and those people make the rules. Cannabis is a plant which can be grown by anyone, which the above establishment can’t control and this scares them , money it’s all about money
    I truly believe cannabis is so much less harmful for you than any alcohol , or pharmaceutical drugs that’s pumped down our throats , with so many bad side affects, but hey its money so who cares , right…
    Why with all our technical knowledge isn’t more research done on the benifits of medical cannabis, which has been proven to have worked on pain relief and cancer killing property’s for so many people, but it’s pushed away, it should be up to the individual person if he or she wishes to use this herb to benifit their health, and yes it should be age appropriate, it’s about time we stood our ground and make these law making fools listen, why is there never enough money for medical research, but there’s always enough for war . It’s sad ?

  29. I understand this is an old article, but I would be very grateful if you could update it with a link to more recent informations.

    Despite medical cannabis being theoretically possible, the only medication product allowed so far is still unavailable due to what the health minister called ‘friction regarding pricing’. Those in real pain who suffer in french by lack of such medication judge the situation.

    In the past few weeks, things actually got worst and at the moment the only law compliant form of cannabis in France is CBD products coming from hemp explicitly allowed varieties, assuming these grow with less that 0.2% THC in the original plant, and 0,00% THC in the final product. Only the seeds and stem may be used, not the flowers, to produce the actual product. Entrepreneurs who opened shops to sell CBD products and flowers got a hard reminder of law interpretation, with shops being shut down and owners being trialed.

    Your article states that use or sale of cannabis in France is sanctioned by 1 year of prison and up to 3 500 euros fines after trial … this is what we risk for users only. In fact, production, transportation and sale can result in up to 10 years of prison and 7 500 000 euros fines after trial. Actual sentences rarely reach these high sentences. Getting caught carrying or smoking a blunt can can result in a night at the police station, a court trial, or your cannabis being confiscated by the officer.

    It is worth noting that the current government intends to enable police forces to give a fine to users without trial, several hundred euros, in an effort to reduce the congestion of law courts by cannabis usage cases. But as an enhancement to the existing laws, not a replacement, in case of recidivism the higher sentences remain possible.

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hi there,

      Thanks for your comment and for sharing this information! You are completely right that this is an old article and we are planning to update the whole series of ‘Cannabis In…’ articles before the end of this year. Every comment on these articles that contains new information is useful to us, and will be taken into account during the update process, so your contribution is much appreciated. In the meantime, I hope you continue to enjoy the blog.

      With best wishes,

      Scarlet

  30. Pamela Parker

    Cannabis is good for spasms, there’s no doubt about that. And it elevates your mood. If you are not into smoking to gain the positive medical effects, there are many commercial edibles and drinks that are available.

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