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French Folders #1: Is France Stuck with Cannabis Prohibition?

As The freshly elected President Macron has announced during his campaign he would reconsider the French Cannabis policy the future looks anything but legalized. Although French politics can be enigmatic to foreign observer here’s the first episode of 2 to try and understand how the green landscape is looking like over the seas in the old hexagonal cheese country.

‘Who knows what the Frenchies will do?’

If you take for instance the recent presidential campaign, about 96% of the voters clearly condemned the results of the previous ‘Holland’ presidency. Still, the French majority eventually voted for his obvious legacy with President ‘Macron’ president. But hey, right after the latter got elected the French went back to demonstrating against him.

Do they have Cannabis laws in France?

The fact is that Cannabis use has been popular throughout French history. Cannabis was brought to France by a doctor called Jacques Joseph Moreau de Tours who made it popular in high society. This is how France came to be the cradle of theclub des hashischins’ back in the 1800’s.

But today France is enforcing the hardest national laws against Cannabis users and growers in all of Europe (together with Slovakia). Of course in France, repeatedly using Cannabis could lead you to jail, but even showing Cannabis positively in a public way ‘En Français’ also could…

Cannabis rosin in the form of hashish has been imported and used in Europe and France for centuries. Today, the 67 million strong population, representing by the numbers, the largest Cannabis users community on the old continent.

The use of Cannabis is theoretically penalized by 1 year in jail and a €3750 penalty, however simply showing Cannabis under a positive light is punishable by 5 years jail and €75 000 fine. If you are convicted of producing or trafficking on a large scale it is up to 20 years to life with a six figure fine on the top. But still the number of users and the traffic has never been so dense.

French Cannabis activists demonstrating in Lyon Place Bellecourt


Does prohibition lead to persecution?

In September this year the French Cannabis laws turned 47 years old. Since 1970 the population of France grew from about 50 Million inhabitants to 67 million now. In the meantime the number of reported drug felonies was multiplied by more than 50.

There has been a tremendous increase of the enforcement policy back in the 2000’s under at the zero-tolerance initiative of Nicolas Sarkozy, Prime Minister then. 25% of the procedures for use and detention still lead to prison time today.

French law is not only utterly repressive; it’s also confused by a plethora of gradations: Use / Showing positively/ possession / transport / Growing / Selling or giving. Each one is a separate felony; and each one has to be proven so the sentences do not always reflect the level of the charges.

Up to 85% of drugs related arrests in France target the use of Cannabis but as France prohibits statistics based on ethnicity it’s only possible to note the over-representation of ethnic young people from populous areas.

“Patrols and body searching are targeting North African Populations first, I don’t say the French police is racist, but they simply try to accomplish the objectives they are given. So they keep going where they are definitely sure to make arrest (…) “Says Christian ben Lakhdar « Cannabis: réguler le marché pour sortir de l’impasse

Is Macron Legalizing Cannabis with the new fine-based law?

Lately the government of France has organized a public discussion chamber led by two deputies and organized hearings in order to decide whether or not they should legalize the use and possession of Cannabis. It’s about switching to small fines instead of jail sentences and heavy penalties.

“We believe the upcoming law is pushing France away from the regulation of Cannabis. That’s also because the medical use of Cannabis will remain unauthorized in France, and still leading to prosecutions in court.

Clearly the new systems add another base for a fined felony and will impact the socially vulnerable populations. The great majority of the people arrested for use and possession of Cannabis are mostly young or therapeutic users, most of them are not even financially well off, so the fine system is no kind of legalization in France.” Says Olivier Hurel Public Relations Norml France

“1970’s French law and a lack of political courage seems to be the cause of the situation in France, but today’s large proportions of users amongst the population is raising concerns about health and matters of justice. In France the use of Cannabis is regarded both as a legal and a medical problem.

French Writer and famous Cannabis advocate: Jean-pierre Galland

“I think the idea of giving Cannabis user a fine is a terrible thing even if that means the revision of no-less terrible 1970’s law. It would be an unfair move targeting young popular and poor classes. It’s nonsense that the media could even report it as a move forward legalization” Says Jean-pierre Galland French Writer and Cannabis Advocate, Cofounder of the CIRC

J’ai fait un rêve* (*I had a dream)

From the previous CIRC advocacy initiatives every 18th of June to the freshly installed Norml France that was built on the legacy of Chanvres et libertés, France has never lacked activists and defenders of the Cannabis cause. So how about their own vision, and how about some of the users’ visions too? So we went to ask.

“I dream of a country where both the medical and the recreative use of Cannabis would be legal; where possession and self-production would be totally permitted” Says S.

“I dream of a society that would accept the concept of Cannabis social clubs, a country where we would have Canna-bistrots (Cannabis cafés), a society where incomes brought by legalization would help prevention and education. Says Jean-pierre Galland

“We believe in a non-profit Cannabis Social Clubs model (…) Business should be made possible, distribution organized and Cannabis prescriptions should allow refunds from the French social care system. Says Olivier Hurel Norml France

“We should allow every farmer who’d experience economic difficulties to grow and sell Cannabis themselves through registered cooperatives.” Says C.

“At least it should be tolerated in small quantities like we do have in Belgium” Says M.

“We should be allowed to grow weed home like any other medicinal plant, and smoke it: liberté égalité, fraternité” Says M.

As time goes by, the prohibition zones are shrinking at the French borders. People next door seem to believe that Hemp can save the world’. Italy, Spain, Switzerland, The Netherlands are surfing the Cannabusiness, and have allowed the use of medical Cannabis.

Sources :



Mediapart Blog article. “L’échec stupéfiant à la drogue”

Christian ben Lakdar « Cannabis: réguler le marché pour sortir de l’impasse ed. Le bord de l’eau.

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