Cannabis in France is illegal for personal use, but remains one of the most popular illegal drugs. Limited types of cannabis-derived products are permitted for medical uses.
During Napoléon Bonaparte's invasion of Egypt in 1798, alcohol was not available as Egypt was an Islamic country. In place of alcohol, Bonaparte's troops resorted to trying hashish, which they found to their liking. As a result of the conspicuous consumption of hashish by the troops, the smoking of hashish and consumption of drinks containing it was banned in October 1800, although the troops mostly ignored the order. Subsequently, beverages containing hashish were banned in Egyptian cafes; cafes that sold them were shut down and "boarded up", and their proprietors were jailed. During this time, hashish imported from other countries was destroyed by burning. Upon the end of the occupation in 1801, French troops brought supplies of hashish with them back to France.
In the mid-1800s, following travel and studies in Asia, French psychiatrist Jacques-Joseph Moreau studied hashish extensively and produced the 1845 work Du Hachisch et de l'aliénation mentale (Hashish and Mental Illness).
In the 1800s, hashish was embraced in some European literary circles. Most famously, the Club des Hashischins was a Parisian club dedicated to the consumption of hashish and other drugs; its members included literary luminaries such as Théophile Gautier, Moreau de Tours, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Charles Baudelaire and Honoré de Balzac. Baudelaire later wrote the 1860 book Les paradis artificiels about the state of being under the influence of opium and hashish.
In France, possession and use of cannabis fall under criminal law and the Loi du 31 décembre 1970, regarding health measures against drug abuse and suppression of trafficking.
France is a signatory to the 1925 Geneva Convention on drugs, and accordingly banned cannabis as a medical treatment in 1953. Since then, the importation, sale, transport and production of cannabis and cannabinoids has been illegal in France. However, in 1999, the Agence Française de Sécurité Sanitaire des Produits de Santé (AFSSPS) authorised the issuance of ATUs (temporary use authorizations) for health products otherwise not permitted on the French market. However, in 1991 a court rejected the demands of the NGO Mouvement pour la Légalization Contrôlée concerning the importation of cannabis to supply 10 patients suffering terminal illness, arguing that such was incompatible with France's adherence to the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and MLC's inability to scientifically control and administer medical cannabis.
As of 8 June 2013, cannabis derivatives can be used in France for the manufacture of medicinal products. The products can only be obtained with a prescription and will only be prescribed when all other medications have failed to effectively relieve suffering. The amended legislation decriminalises "the production, transport, export, possession, offering, acquisition or use of speciality pharmaceutials that contains one of these (cannabis-derivative) substances", while all cannabis products must be approved by the National Medical Safety Agency (Agence nationale de sécurité du médicament – ANSM). A Pharmacists' Union spokesperson explained to the media that the change will make it more straightforward to conduct research into cannabinoids.
In September 2018, the french National Agency for Drug Safety (ANSM) started an experimentation on therapeutic cannabis. They created a scientific committee in order to evaluate a new public policy and distribution network for specific diseases. This experiment will gather 3000 patients and provide dried flowers and oils for people going under epilepsy, neuropathic pain or to treat side effects of chemotherapy. The first test should start in September 2020 and will go on for two years.
On 25 May 2017, the Minister of the Interior indicated his intention to implement reforms, promised by President Emmanuel Macron during his campaign, to substitute citations rather than arrest and trial for use and possession of cannabis. On 23 November 2018 the penalty for possession of cannabis (and other illegal drugs) was reduced to a 200 euro fine, following a 28–14 vote by the National Assembly.
In 2012, 13.4 million French people between age 15 and 64 had tried cannabis, and 1.2 million people in Metropolitan France considered themselves regular users. France ranks fourth in the European Union in terms of monthly consumption (following the Czech Republic, Spain, and Italy) and second only to Denmark in terms of persons who have ever used cannabis.
A poll conducted by CSA in November 2013 indicated that, 55% of French people were opposed to the decriminalization and of cannabis, while 44% said that the prohibition on cannabis is an abridgment of individual liberty.
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- Sondage CSA, cité par Frédéric Joignot, France, terre de joints, cahier Culture et Idées, Le Monde, 27 juin 2014.