Skip to main content

Is France Finally Moving Forward on Cannabis Law Reform?

Flag of France

France is the largest country in Europe that has, so far, not moved forward on cannabis law reform. That now may be changing. In mid-December, 2018 a panel of experts set up by the French Agency for Drug Safety (ANSM) recommended the authorization of cannabis for medical purposes. On the 27th of December, the ANSM officially declared its desire to launch experiments before the end of 2019.

So far, the only cannabinoid drugs available in the French market are Sativex, the spray manufactured by British firm GW Pharmaceuticals, and dronabinol, the cannabinoid pill made from synthetic cannabinoids.

As France begins to move into the medical cannabis discussion camp, it will create an environment where the entire European continent is now in the process of some kind of reform.

A Brief History of Cannabis In France

Like many other countries in Europe, cannabis has a long history here. Even before the French Revolution, the French began cultivating hemp. Napoleon also instigated some of the first military studies on hashish during his invasion of Egypt because he was concerned about the effects of hashish on his soldiers. This led to the first (Western) medical experiments on the effects of cannabis on the nervous system.

The Bohemian society of the French literary set in Paris also experimented with cannabis (mostly in the form of hashish) along with other drugs.

However, as with most other countries, the impact of the drug war, combined with a strong pharmaceutical industry here in the 20th Century, sidelined cannabis as a medical option.

That “epoch” is also now coming to a close.

The European Continent On A Path To Liberalization

With the European Union now considering a massive policy shift on, at least, medical cannabis, it is clear that the continent is on a path of green reform. That said, it is unclear how fast EU-wide reforms will progress. Cannabis reform in the EU itself is now about five years behind both the United States and Canada, if not further, but that is a deceptive benchmark. Europe is a far more regulated continent. In addition, the “state” reform that must occur here is sovereign, rather than the state level as it is in the United States. This means that there will be a scientific process behind reform tied to political change.

It also means that recreational reform will undoubtedly come much slower. Regardless, that discussion too is already in the room, with Luxembourg’s government vowing to implement the same here within five years. Change may be too slow for many, but it is becoming clear that positive changes are coming to Europe over the coming years.

The International Cannabis Business Conference is THE place to be to learn the latest about cannabis policy and industry developments in Europe and around the world. After its stop in San Francisco this February 7-8, the ICBC will be hosting events in Barcelona, Berlin, and Zurich, before heading back to North America for a conference in Vancouver in September. Discounted early-bird tickets are now on sale for all of the ICBC’s 2019 events.


ANSM, Dronabinol, French Agency for Drug Safety, GW Pharmaceuticals, Sativex