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Published on 7 October 2007  by encod

FRANCE

LEGAL STATUS OF CANNABIS IN FRANCE



All the versions of this article: [English]





1. Consumption and possession

In addition to penalising the debate on cannabis (presenting it in a "favorable" way is an offence), the French law prohibits the use of cannabis with more or less severe sanctions according to the act ; as example, the simple use can lead to up to one year of imprisonment which can be accompanied or substituted by a fine going up to 3.750 euros;

Possession or use of drugs in a private or public place (in the street, in a bus, in your own car if it is in the street, in a bar, etc.) is totally forbidden. No distinction is made for use for therapeutic or religious purpose in continental France, but there are some special laws in overseas territories like Polynesia.

This approximate application of the law, which is dependent on the interpretation of individuals (judge and police) as much as geographical localizations (larger tolerance downtown and big cities), has regularly put the problem of the revision of this law on table.

2. Cultivation

Cultivation for your own use (for recreational or medicinal or another purpose) is totally forbidden. As a producer, you should face the hight criminal court, but then it is generally not the case, because it will overloaded this court which is already overloaded. (punishable from fine up to 7 500 000 euros to 30 years).

3. Distribution

Smuggling (traffic), can lead to the criminal reclusion to perpetuity (30 years) and 7.500.000 euros of fine. Selling drugs is a crime. The French law thus distinguishes clearly the user, considered more as one patient than like a delinquent, who raise of the Code of the Public health, and the “dealer " who sells drug in addition to his possible consumption, which is considered as smuggler and raises of the Penal code.In practice, the marked judgments are seldom also severe and the continuations seldom as systematic as the law prescribes.

4. Provision of seeds, tools to produce and consume cannabis etc.

It is illegal to sell or to buy seeds. Hemp products (it depends on THC levels) are legal, but some hemp shops face prosecution because they did present cannabis in a favorable way.

5. Production and distribution of hemp products

See above

This is the law. Then the police and judges make their own laws, and people that their own initiatives

Contact for Cannabis Consumers and Activism in France: Farid Ghehioueche

POLICIES ON OTHER DRUGS

With Sweden, France can be considered as the most repressive country of the European Union when drug policy is concerned. However, policy is another matter.

The law of 31 December, 1970, constitutes the current legal framework for French policy on drugs. Consumption and possession are forbidden, although the first is less and less persecuted and the second only in some regions. Distribution and production is persecuted, as well as advertising and ’presenting drugs in a favourable manner’. In the past ten years, use of cannabis has become much more popular: it is noticed on the streets, at concerts, in parks etc. Also cocaine consumption has been increasing remarkably.

In its Three Years Plan (Plan Trienal) for the fight against drugs and dependencies, covering the years 1999-2001, the government has included alcohol and tobacco as a target for drug policy (which is considered quite revolutionary among drug experts). At the same time, harm reduction strategies have been integrated in official policy, even to the point of allowing testing of Ecstasy and other synthetic drugs used at Rave parties, a practice still unknown in many other European countries. Needle exchange and maintenance programmes with the French produced Subutex (buprenorphine), and much less with methadone, are widespread, though their quality differs considerably per region.

Several commissions of academic experts, such as the Commission HENRION (1993) and ROCQUES (1999), who were asked by Health Ministers to recommend eventual changes in drug policy, have prepared the road for this change in climate. The ROCQUES report opened the debate on the possible depenalisation of cannabis, which was described as less harmful than alcohol. In the government coalition of Socialists and Greens, Health Minister Bernard KOUCHNER (who is Minister of Foreign Affairs in the current government of President Sarkozy) has openly questioned the prohibition of cannabis, and offers support to organisations of drug users working in harm reduction programmes. On the other hand, the same minister also regularly calls for attention against the “health threat that drugs represent”.

The legal establishment, which in France is operating quite autonomously, continues to insist on law enforcement as a basic principle for drug policy. As the 1970 law prohibits any action that ‘presents illicit drugs in a favourable way’, several cannabis activists have been convicted to significant fines and even jail terms, for the sole reason of selling T-shirts or distributing leaflets. One of them, Jean-Pierre GALLAND, has been convicted to paying a fine of approx. 14.000 EUROs or 150 days in jail for selling T-shirts with pro-cannabis slogans on a music festival.

Meanwhile, the general attitude of French media and the public is turning in favour of changing drug laws. According to opinion polls, 33% of the French population agrees on the proposal to legalise cannabis. But it is expected that the official line will still be against, as it is argued that when cannabis is legalised, other drugs will have to follow.

READ ALSO: NATIONAL COUNTRY REPORT TO EMCDDA ON 2009





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The European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies, is a pan-European network of currently 150 NGO’s and individual experts involved in the drug issue on a daily base. We are the European section of an International Coalition, which consists of more than 400 NGOs from around the world that have adhered to a Manifesto for Just and Effective Drug Policies (established in 1998). Among our members are organisations of cannabis and other drug users, of health workers, researchers, grassroot activists as well as companies.


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