While opportunities for French cannabis policy reform looked dismal in early 2018, the French Medicine Agency’s (ANSM) recent recommendation that medical cannabis use be authorised has sparked discussion by key actors in the country.

Softening State Attitudes?

In this early stage of discussions on cannabis, there is little clarity on details, but it is useful to compare how the discussion is taking place at three levels: local, national and regional. While local actors such as shops, producers and entrepreneurs are eager to embrace the worldwide wave of cannabis reform, France’s national policy is still considered one of the strictest in Europe. Recent Europe-wide policy developments give cause for optimism at a regional level.

On a local level, actors like Eric Correia, a public representative for the southwestern region of Nouvelle Aquitaine, and the hemp association InterChanvre, are showing that throughout France, people are exploring, organising and engaging with the potential of a legal cannabis industry. Correia, for example, has proposed that his department Creuse be used as a pilot region for the production of medical cannabis.

Nationally, French political representatives have been collaborating to increase knowledge and awareness surrounding medical cannabis. Olivier Veran MP, Jean-Baptiste Moreau MP and Guillaume Balas MEP took part in a roundtable discussion in November 2018 at the National Assembly in defence of the rights of patients to access cannabis-based medicines. This advocacy effort stemmed from the need to inform decision makers about how reforming cannabis policy can serve the public good.

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“Alongside robust licensing and regulation, it is the legal cannabis industry that will take power away from criminals,” says Crispin Blunt, British MP and a speaker at last year’s Cannabis Europa London. International medical cannabis companies that have had years of trialling and testing cannabis-based medicines have accumulated expertise that should be used to inform decision-makers and the public.

While groups are organising to spearhead public advocacy efforts, French government agencies are yet to catch up on public policy arguments for reform and bypass the long-held stigma surrounding illicit drugs. This was most evident in the mid-2018 crackdown on CBD shops.

CBD in the Legal Grey Zone

CBD Shop Paris, source: cannabisnewsbox

CBD Shop Paris, source: cannabisnewsbox

The year 2018 in France saw a steep rise in the shops specialising in CBD products, including ones reported in Paris, Bourgogne and Aix-en Provence. These shops were operating in a legal grey area as CBD products are technically “neither allowed, nor prohibited” in France. This sudden surge of CBD retailers sparked a fierce response from government agencies in mid-2018, taking legal action against several shop owners saying that the shops “took advantage” of the grey area.  Meanwhile, MILDECA, the government’s agency for combatting drugs and addiction, published a report illustrating its stance on cannabidiol products, explaining that any amount of THC present in final products is prohibited, as opposed to the 0.2% of THC that is allowed in the seeds and fibres of the plant used for production.

In one case, a local court in Aix-en-Provence opted not to take a decision before consulting the European Court of Justice. While a ruling is likely to come out in the next two years, experts believe European law will be more lenient than the current French policy and could help steer it forward.

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With a growing need to discuss these questions in an informed and open manner, and learn from the experience generated by reforms in other countries, Cannabis Europa Paris takes place at a perfect time to foster these conversations. International experts will gather to share insights on global cannabis reform and help create a blueprint for effective change in France and beyond this February 8th at Maison de la Chimie. Limited tickets available.


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