France is home to some very strict weed laws. At least on paper anyway. Despite this, recreational use is prevalent throughout the country, earning it the number four spot for monthly consumption within the EU. While recreational use remains illegal, France does have a legal market for medicinal weed in development. It was initially aimed at being launched in the first quarter of 2020 but has experienced delays.
But what about recreational use? Is anything happening there? Well, yes and no. While legalization movements are always occurring, it’s ultimately up to the government, which remains firm on their stance that France will not be legalizing for recreational use. But, one thing that the French government can’t control is its geography.
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France’s Strategic Geography
France borders Spain, a country with decriminalized weed, and right to privacy laws which means you can grow and smoke weed in private. It also borders Luxembourg, the first European country that plans to fully legalize cannabis. And then there’s the Netherlands. A not-so-far trip from Paris and the north of the country where you can buy cannabis, although technically illegal but not enforced. And last up is Germany, another country where cannabis remains illegal, however small amounts often don’t carry punishment.
None of this necessarily means anything, but it could do as we’ve seen in the US. A lot of states with medical marijuana programs but without legal recreational use, that border states with recreational use are seeing large drops in tax revenue. A great example of this is Connecticut and Massachusetts. Connecticut is looking to legalize recreational use, in part due to their medical patients traveling across the border and buying cheaper weed in Massachusetts. Of course it can be said that those states are far closer to each other than France and its neighbors, but the power of government FOMO for tax revenue shouldn’t be understated.
Medical Weed In France
So, technically France does have a legal medical weed market, but currently, it’s extremely limited. Medical weed market might not be correct wording actually, as only one cannabis-based medicine is available. Sativex, a spray with both THC and CBD present, was legalized in 2014. To qualify for Sativex use though, patients must have multiple sclerosis, intractable spasticity, and muscle spasms. Not only this, but they need to have evidence of not responding well to other more traditional treatments.
The country is however trialing a medical marijuana program, which is expected to last for two years. Should the trial be successful, it’s expected that the procedures and conditions will largely remain in place permanently. The trial so far involves 3000 patients, all of which have been deemed as having no other medical options to pursue. This likely means that a significant number of citizens remain without any legal treatment, as 3000 out of a population of 65 million-plus represents around 0.005% of the population.
Recreational Weed Laws France
So without a fully functioning medical marijuana system in place, it should go without saying that France does not have anything close to legal recreational weed. But, Emmanuel Macron’s party has recently introduced “partial decriminalization“.
Instead of the possibility of a year in prison for possessing weed, and a €3,750 fine ($4,110 USD at time of writing), punishments have been greatly reduced. Provided the cannabis is deemed for personal use only, fines are typically up to €200, and no jail time. For more serious offenses however the possibility of jail still very much exists.
Despite France’s harsh cannabis laws, at least by Western European standards, its use is prevalent. 21.8% of those aged between 18 and 34 have reported using cannabis at least once in 2019, according to EMCDDA. While France’s public support for legalization lags behind America’s, a poll before France’s last presidential election found that 52% are in support of some form of legalization. A majority, albeit very small.
Ireland Marijuana Laws
As the world’s seventh-largest economy, France legalizing for recreational use would be huge, but unlikely to happen in the short term. Germany legalizing would put the conversation to the forefront of peoples minds. A task that’s far more likely to happen before France.