Legality of Cannabis by U.S. Jurisdiction

Hemp field near Toulouse

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.


French Egypt[edit]

During Napoléon Bonaparte's invasion of Egypt in 1798, alcohol was not available as Egypt was an Islamic country.[1] In place of alcohol, Bonaparte's troops resorted to trying hashish, which they found to their liking.[1] 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.[1] Subsequently, beverages containing hashish were banned in Egyptian cafes; cafes that sold them were shut down and "boarded up", and their proprietors were jailed.[1] During this time, hashish imported from other countries was destroyed by burning.[1] Upon the end of the occupation in 1801, French troops brought supplies of hashish with them back to France.[1]

Metropolitan France[edit]

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).[2]

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 authors Théophile Gautier, Moreau de Tours, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Charles Baudelaire and Honoré de Balzac.[3] Baudelaire later wrote the 1860 book Les paradis artificiels about the state of being under the influence of opium and hashish.


French cannabis legalisation activist Jean-Pierre Galland in 2007

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 drug trafficking.

Restrictions to freedom of speech[edit]

In French law, free speech is not permitted in relation to narcotic drugs, as Article L-3421-4 (formerly L 630[4]) of the Public Health code states that:

Provocation to commit the offence provided for in Article L. 3421-1 or one of the offences provided for in Articles 222-34 to 222 3421-1 or one of the offences provided for in Articles 222-34 to 222-39 of the Criminal Code [i.e. any drug-related infraction], even if such provocation has not been followed up, or the fact of presenting these offences in a favorable light, shall be punishable by five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 75,000 euros[5]

The vague and broad terms highlighted in the quote above have given rise to criticism[6] and controversial legal action against cannabis activists, book editors, and online content creators.[7]

Medical cannabis[edit]

France is a signatory to the 1961 Single Convention on narcotic drugs, and had banned cannabis as a medical treatment already in 1953. Since then, the importation, sale, transport and production of cannabis and cannabinoids has been illegal in France. In 1999, the Agence Française de Sécurité Sanitaire des Produits de Santé made temporary use authorisations for health products otherwise not permitted on the French market. In 1991 a court rejected the demands of the NGO Mouvement pour la Légalisation 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.[8]

In September 2018, the french National Agency for Drug Safety (ANSM) started an experimentation on therapeutic cannabis. They created a scientific committee to evaluate a new public policy and distribution network for specific diseases.[9] This experiment will gather 3,000 patients and provide dried flowers and oils for people going under epilepsy, neuropathic pain or to treat side effects of chemotherapy.[10] The first test should start in September 2020 and will go on for two years.[11]

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the ANSM informed that the experimentation will be delayed to January 2021.[12]


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.[13] 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.[14][15] On 1 September 2020, the French Government introduced a 200€ fine for cannabis consumption instead of being taken into custody. This measure will also be applied for cocaine detention.[16] Macron has ruled out legalising cannabis while he is in office and legalisation is also opposed by current government health minister Agnès Buzyn and Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin.[17]

Those that support the legalisation of cannabis in France include Julien Bayou, Benoît Hamon, Yannick Jadot, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Pierre Person and Aurélien Taché.[18][19][20][21][22] In 2019, the French Conseil d'Analyse Économique published a report that recommended legalising cannabis for recreational use in France.[23]


Trends in cannabis usage for ages 15–44 between 1990 and 2000

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.[24] 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.[25]

In 2015, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction published a new report on drugs, saying that the French people were still the biggest cannabis consumers, especially in the 15–34 segment. The report is also affirming that the product quality is increasing, due to competition and technical innovation.[26]


A poll conducted by CSA in November 2013 indicated that, 55% of French people were opposed to the decriminalisation of cannabis, while 44% said that the prohibition on cannabis is an abridgment of individual liberty.[27]

In June 2018, an IFOP poll for Terra Nova and Echo Citoyen found that 51% were in favour of a regulated market in cannabis, and 40% were opposed.[28]

At the end of 2018, a poll by the French Observatory of Drugs and Addiction, a government body, found "nearly one in two" were favourable to legalisation with 54% opposed, while more than 9 in 10 were in favour of legalising medical cannabis.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Booth, M. (2015). Cannabis: A History. St. Martin's Press. pp. 76–77. ISBN 978-1-250-08219-0.
  2. ^ Mitch Earleywine (15 August 2002). Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence. Oxford University Press. pp. 14–. ISBN 978-0-19-988143-7.
  3. ^ Levinthal, C. F. (2012). Drugs, behavior, and modern society. (6th ed.). Boston: Pearson College Div.
  4. ^ Mailland, Julien (2009). Minitel and the French Internet: Path Dependence?. TPRC.
  5. ^ Pourrez, Aurélie; Crespel, Elodie; Djahanchahi, Stéphane; Galibert, Olivier; Cordelier, Benoît (28 October 2020), Morillon, Laurent (ed.), "Ethical Positions Arising from Research on Online Communities in the Health Sector", Health Research Practices in a Digital Context (1 ed.), Wiley, pp. 75–92, doi:10.1002/9781119779933.ch5, ISBN 978-1-78630-438-4, retrieved 30 January 2024
  6. ^ Caballero, Francis (2012). Legalize it !. L'Esprit frappeur. Paris: l'Esprit frappeur. ISBN 978-2-84405-307-7.
  7. ^ Djahanchahi, Stéphane; Galibert, Olivier; Cordelier, Benoit (30 June 2021), Cordelier, Benoit; Galibert, Olivier (eds.), "Towards an Info‐communication Categorization of Expertise in Online Health Communities", Digital Health Communications (1 ed.), Wiley, pp. 145–173, doi:10.1002/9781119842651.ch7, ISBN 978-1-78630-468-1, retrieved 30 January 2024
  8. ^ Ann Törnkvist (10 June 2013). "French law on pot-based medicine takes effect". The Local. Retrieved 12 June 2013.
  9. ^ "Cannabis à visée thérapeutique en France : L'ANSM publie la proposition du Comité d'experts sur le cadre de la phase expérimentale de mise à disposition – Point d'Information – ANSM : Agence nationale de sécurité du médicament et des produits de santé". Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  10. ^ à 00h11, Par Le ParisienLe 23 janvier 2020 (2 January 2020). "L'expérimentation thérapeutique du cannabis finalement prévue pour "septembre"". (in French). Retrieved 18 February 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  11. ^ paul-leboulanger. "Cannabis Thérapeutique : il arrive en France dès cette année !". (in French). Archived from the original on 18 February 2020. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  12. ^ à 00h11, Futura-Sciences (1 June 2020). "Cannabis thérapeutique : où en est la France ?". (in French). Retrieved 2 September 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  13. ^ « L’usage de cannabis bientôt puni par une simple contravention »,, 26 mai 2017.
  14. ^ "France introduces fixed fine for drug use". The Connexion. 25 November 2018. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  15. ^ "France to slash fines for pot smokers amid rise in cannabis use". The Local. 25 January 2018. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  16. ^ à 00h11, The Connexion (1 September 2020). "France introduces €200 spot fine for drug use from today". (in French). Retrieved 2 September 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  17. ^ Brunet, Romain (17 January 2021). "France launches public consultation on legalising cannabis". France 24. Retrieved 3 September 2021.
  18. ^ "Cannabis: are the French the biggest consumers and the most severely punished in Europe, as Julien Bayou asserts?". California18. 24 August 2021. Retrieved 4 September 2021.
  19. ^ "Meet the robot-taxing, marijuana-legalizing, Jeremy Corbyn of the French left". POLITICO. 23 January 2017. Retrieved 4 September 2021.
  20. ^ "Yannick Jadot favorable à la "légalisation" du cannabis pour "concentrer" la répression sur les drogues dures". franceinfo. 19 April 2021. Retrieved 4 September 2021.
  21. ^ Chrisafis, Angelique (4 April 2017). "French presidential election: how the candidates compare". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 September 2021.
  22. ^ "EU top jobs continue to divide leaders". EURACTIV. 21 June 2019. Retrieved 4 September 2021.
  23. ^ "France has no plans to legalise cannabis for recreational use - minister". Reuters (via Yahoo News). 20 June 2019. Retrieved 5 September 2021.
  24. ^ Observatoire français des drogues et toxicomanies, cité par Frédéric Joignot, France, terre de joints, cahier Culture et Idées, Le Monde, 27 juin 2014.
  25. ^ OEDT (2007), p. 41
  26. ^ "La France, première consommatrice de cannabis d'Europe".
  27. ^ Sondage CSA, cité par Frédéric Joignot, France, terre de joints, cahier Culture et Idées, Le Monde, 27 juin 2014.
  28. ^ "Les Français et le cannabis (fr)". Terra Nova. 11 June 2018. Archived from the original on 5 August 2021. Retrieved 27 November 2020.
  29. ^ Agnès Leclair (18 April 2019). "Près d'un Français sur deux est favorable à la légalisation du cannabis (fr)". Le Figaro. Retrieved 27 November 2020.