Cannabis and Laws in France
If you think countries in the vicinity of France are a little too hard on users of medical marijuana, multiply that by ten, and you get the actual situation in France. The French government is more serious about its crackdown on illegal marijuana than other European countries and even the US. If you are a resident who is planning to engage in any cannabis-related activity or a tourist planning to travel to France in the near future, it is important that you know the possible consequences of breaking the French government’s laws against this pungent weed.
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Legality of Cannabis in France
Certain forms of medical marijuana are legal in France, but recreational marijuana is not. You are not allowed to use, grow, sell, or buy marijuana or its seeds for recreational use. If caught breaking these prohibitions, you face fines totaling up to 7.5 million euros and up to several decades of jail time.
In mild cases, getting caught selling, using, or in possession of marijuana for recreational use can put you behind bars for about a year and be fined around under $4,000. Sometimes, criminal penalties come with programs that comprise mandatory attendance in awareness classes. These programs aim to educate violators about the dangers of drug addiction and encourage addicts to get treatment.
Meanwhile, if you are caught growing marijuana plants, you risk being fined the full 7.5 million euros plus 30 years in jail.
However, it is all still ultimately on a case-to-case basis. Some law enforcement officers tend to go easy on tourists caught using marijuana and public and would leave you with a warning. Take note, though, that not all cops you may run into are like that. It is always best to be careful. Research about developments in French laws right before engaging in any activity related to marijuana or right before traveling to the country.
Buying Marijuana and Seeds in France
Expect a rampant black market for weed wherever it is prohibited. In France, you can usually buy yourself cannabis, seeds, and derivatives like hashish in places like bars, alleys, and beaches. To give you some perspective on how pricing works, 10 grams of the best quality cannabis will set you back by around $90 in a place like Strasbourg.
The Current State of Marijuana Use in France
Cannabis did not become as widely popular in France as it is now until the 1970s when it became a fundamental part of the hippie culture that emerged in the country. It was so big that people were growing and cultivating cannabis openly in the Pyrenees.
Today, the use of cannabis is closely linked with North Africans and French trafficking gangs (who largely benefit from the illegal trade). As mentioned, the French government is very strict regarding its cannabis laws, which explains why there are hardly any large-scale growers in the country.
What you are more likely to find are farmers who grow only a few plants and produce only for themselves or for close friends. However, there is a lot of marijuana, seeds, and derivatives available, provided that you know where to look.
These come from neighboring countries, but largely (especially hashish) from Morocco. Meanwhile, seeds mostly come from the Netherlands. Moreover, France is not always the final destination. Commonly, weed passes the country en route to places like Belgium, the Netherlands, UK, and Italy.
Marijuana activists remain determined about pushing for reform. In 2013, “cannabis social clubs” began popping up in France. These are groups of marijuana users who suddenly began registering as nonprofit groups to draw attention to their cause. They wanted to air their concern over what they believed were disproportionate and unfair laws against them and their herb and hopefully win the government over.
Unfortunately, such movements failed to get public support. Leaders were charged and sentenced.
Medical Marijuana in France
So far, all this talk about the legalization of cannabis in France has been about recreational weed. What about medical marijuana then? In 2014, certain types of medical weed were officially legalized in the country. This was signaled by Health Minister Marisol Touraine, who passed a decree that legalizes the sale of cannabis-based drugs, such as the mouth spray Sativex (treatment for multiple sclerosis). Take note that these are medications containing marijuana derivatives.
Transactions and activity related to medical cannabis are heavily controlled and monitored, though. For example, only neurologists are allowed to prescribe Sativex.
If you are a patient, all you need is a prescription that is renewed every six months. You are allowed to get a month’s supply in one go. These same rules also apply to methadone and other opiate-based medicines. This ruling was seen as a major success by pro-cannabis activists as it was the fruit of several years of painstaking negotiations.
However, take note that any other form of medical marijuana remains prohibited. Many patients hope that this changes soon. Anyway, the use and distribution of (albeit illegal) cannabis are already very prevalent in the country.
Possible Future Changes
The prospect of legalizing or decriminalizing the use, buying, selling, and growing of marijuana for recreational purposes in France looks bleak. The government remains explicitly steadfast in its determination to keep recreational weed illegal, which is why users, growers, and distributors remain discreet.
These stringent rules and regulations cover you, the tourist. It is never safe to assume that nobody is looking at your attempt to transact with a shady peddler in a dark alley to score some of your favorite herbs.
Remember that France has what must be the worst penalties for unauthorized cannabis use, and you may not always be spared from them. The fines and jail time are unbearable, so you definitely want to stay within what the law allows.
Debates are still ongoing about whether imposing stringent penalties on recreational users works better than relaxing regulations. For now, it is best to be careful and refrain from smoking or procuring marijuana unless you are an authorized patient in France.