Cannabis in France

Country profile:

· Population: 67.4 million

· Prevalence of Cannabis Users (million): 4.7

· Ruling Government Party: La Republique En Marche!

· Party Stance on Cannabis: Support decriminalisation

Landscape and policy:

Reading the above country profile on France may give you the impression that France is largely progressive, however the country in some senses emblematises the hypocritic cannabis policies of Western Europe as a whole.

Despite the government being in support of decriminalisation, they have maintained a conservative stance on recreational and medical cannabis use in the country. This is particularly hypocritical as France produces some of the highest amounts of hemp in the world and also has one of the highest cannabis consumption rates in the world.

Whilst the country’s health minister Agnès Buzyn has expressed her support for a medical cannabis programme, medical cannabis is still largely unavailable for the country’s citizens.

After a parliamentary report in 2017, the country was set to reform the criminalisation of cannabis users. But upon closer inspection, the report does very little in regard to furthering the generation of a viable cannabis industry and also does little to support the country’s recreational cannabis users – with a fine of around €300 being introduced as opposed to prison sentences. This supposed improvement, it seems, was actually enacted to control congestion in the courts as opposed to being enacted to liberate the country’s cannabis users.

The country’s regulatory environment

While Sativex was made legal in the country in 2014, medical cannabis as a whole is illegal in France, unless a citizen has a compassionate-use permit which allows them to get access to unlicensed cannabis products. Even with Sativex legalised here, the high price of the product in the country has meant its potential scope of use has been limited. Marinol and Epidiolex are also allowed in the country, with the former drug being used for the treatment of nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients, whilst the latter is used for the treatment of epilepsy.

Additionally, while pharmaceutical cannabis was made legal back in 2013, cannabis-based products are still not being sold in the country leaving many patients feeling like their only option is to go abroad to get the cannabis-based medication they seek.

In regard to recreational cannabis, whilst the country has one of the highest consumption rates in Europe, recreational use is still illegal in the country, although fines are now issued for recreational use rather than prison sentences.

CBD is available for purchase in certain shops in France as it is legal due to its non-psychoactive nature.

Recent updates

Following a trial in October this year, medical cannabis is supposedly set to become available for French patients who are not responding to existing treatment, with the Assemblée Nationale authorising a two-year trial period of the drug.

This trial will reportedly allow the country’s doctors to review evidence of any noted side effects and determine if there are any risks of addiction involved with the cannabis treatment. The drug is likely going to be administered to patients suffering from conditions like treatment-resistant epilepsy, muscle spasms and neuropathic pain that is unresponsive to any other form of treatment.

Any doctors who voluntarily choose to join the trial process will be trained on the drug and its effects via an online course.

For more in depth information on different regulations in various countries and how this affects pharmacists, we recommend accessing our in depth modules available on our website. Here, you can find up to date information on CBMPs and how best to prescribe them. You can also explore our news section and evidence base for the latest information on this ever-changing area of research.

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