While world-renowned hashmaker Frenchy Cannoli may have been a true cannabis evangelist, educating the masses on how to make high quality hash, unfortunately, the country he hailed from, France, has very different views of cannabis. Seeing how restrictive French laws on cannabis have been until very recently, it is no wonder that Frenchy left his home for greener pastures and greener buds in other countries. Read on to learn the basics of cannabis in France before your next visit to Paris.
Before getting into French cannabis laws, a word on drug trafficking. In France, like most countries, a person bringing drugs into the country on a plane can be charged with drug trafficking. A law that went into effect in 2020 was a small step towards decriminalizing cannabis possession, so long as it is less than 50 grams (roughly two ounces), there is a chance to pay a fine and avoid jail time, but it is still a criminal offense.
Nascent Medical Cannabis Industry
France began their experiments with medical cannabis in 2021, with a two-year pilot study of 3,000 patients. Given the success of their ongoing pilot study, it is no surprise that on March 1st, 2022, the French government issued a decree legalizing medical cannabis. Specifically, the decree amended the French Public Health Code allowing for the legal cultivation, production/manufacture, transportation (including import/exporting), and possession of cannabis for medical use.
That decree will lead to the birth of a French medical cannabis industry, but only once it is implemented and the National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products (ANSM) establishes the supply chain. The ANSM must also create the 11 member committee who will serve an advisory role on a number of aspects relating to medical cannabis, such as track and trace, approved methods of ingestion, and identification of cultivars.
No Medical Cannabis Reciprocity
As the medical cannabis industry in France is still in its infancy, there are no regulations that currently allow for what is known as medical cannabis reciprocity, in other words, one state or country honoring another state or country’s medical cannabis recommendation. That means that even if you have a medical cannabis recommendation that is valid another country (Canada, Germany, Israel, United States, etc.) it will not help you legally purchase or use cannabis in France. Time will tell if France will allow for some sort of reciprocity for medical cannabis patients.
Limited Progress Towards Full Legalization
France is widely regarded as having some of the most restrictive cannabis laws in Europe and while they have very recently come to embrace medical cannabis, it is moving slowly and the government is generally opposed to legalization. Like the United States, despite very restrictive cannabis laws, France’s Interior Ministry notes that it “has Europe’s second-highest consumption levels with around 900,000 daily cannabis users.” As a fellow member of the European Union, France is watching their neighbor Germany, and French Health Minister François Braun says they “will closely monitor the evolution of the German legislative framework, especially with regard to its potential impact on cross-border regions.” Frustratingly, while the United States and much of the world is trending in a positive direction on cannabis, with legalization happening fairly rapidly, things have stalled in France at the early onset of medical legalization.
A June 2021 poll by the Institut français d’opinion publique showed that 51% of French people wanted to see cannabis decriminalized, the highest percentage since the 1970s when it was first made illegal. Other survey data indicates that past year use rates and lifetime use rates in France were comparable to those of the U.S., with nearly half of the country reporting some cannabis use in their lifetime and over 10% reporting use in the past year.
CBD Flower Was Recently Legalized
With no adult use legalization in France, and no medical cannabis reciprocity, there is no legal way to consume THC-rich cannabis in France. Thankfully, the French Council of State (the French equivalent to the Supreme Court) overturned their ban on CBD-rich flower at the end of last year, allowing for the creation of a French CBD industry. That means Parisian tourists can soon be enjoying CBD-rich cannabis products, including flower. Time will tell if CBD-infused french wine and cheese will be on the menu any time soon.
Disproportionate Targeting of Muslims
Like in the U.S., the enforcement of drug laws in France has disproportionately targeted some minority groups, specifically, Muslims. Professor David Guba ran the numbers, and despite only 9% of France’s population being Muslim, the data suggests “that up to 1 in 6 prisoners in France today may be an Arab Muslim man who used, possessed or sold cannabis.”