Medical Marijuana Laws in France

Updated on January 22, 2019.  Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer

As medical marijuana gains acceptance all over the world, France continues to have a harsh stance toward the plant. Even for medicinal use, marijuana is illegal. If you’re a patient seeking medicinal cannabis, France doesn’t offer a program that authorizes its use, nor do they have any legislation before their Parliament to legalize medical marijuana.

It’s important for patients to be aware of their country’s stance on cannabis, as the use or possession of it carries with it some hefty penalties.

Medical Marijuana Use Laws in France

In 1961, the UN’s International Convention on Narcotic Drugs classified marijuana as an Annex I drug. The countries that signed this treaty, including France, agreed to treat it as a banned substance. The Drug Act of 1970 grouped cannabis with other narcotics, making them all illegal and subject to severe penalties.

Even as attitudes toward the medicinal use of marijuana change in Europe, France continues to take a firm stance. However, even with these harsh drug laws in place, the personal use of marijuana is on the rise. Some more liberal government officials are working to loosen up these restrictions, but opposition on the other side of the issue is staunch and unyielding.

There was one glimmer of hope that occurred in 2013, when the Code of Public Health was amended by the Ministry of Health to allow cannabis-based medications. However, we still have yet to hear any discussion of implementing a more inclusive program.

How to Get a Prescription for Cannabis-Based Medication

The only cannabis-based medication approved by the National Agency for the Safety of Drugs and Health Products (ANSM) is Sativex. This spray is derived from marijuana and contains equal parts THC and CBD. To get a prescription for Sativex, patients must:

  • Receive a diagnosis for multiple sclerosis
  • Have muscle spasms and spasticity that’s unresponsive to traditional MS treatments
  • Visit an MS specialist or neurologist who can prescribe Sativex
  • Obtain a special prescription from this physician

Marijuana Criminalization in France

France’s Drug Act contains serious penalties for those found in possession of cannabis. Sometimes, first-time or infrequent offenders are treated with leniency, but people should not count on this.

If someone is found using or possessing marijuana, the following penalties could occur:

  • A fine of €3,750
  • One-year of imprisonment
  • Compulsory drug-awareness classes that highlight the dangers of narcotics
  • Therapeutic injunction or treatment for drug addiction

Those who are involved in the sale, cultivation or trafficking of marijuana risk even harsher penalties, including:

  • A fine of up to €7,500,000
  • Ten years to life in prison

Legal Limitations of Medical Marijuana in France

In countries where medical marijuana has been legalized, authorized patients won’t be convicted if found in possession of cannabis. But because France doesn’t have a government-run program, those who use marijuana medicinally are subject to the same penalties as recreational users.

Many activist groups are currently protesting the government’s attitude toward medical marijuana, but little headway has been made so far. However, the admission of Sativex as an authorized treatment does bring some hope to the situation, and many government officials and ministers are stating publicly they’re in favor of medical marijuana legislation in France.

Protections for French Patients and Doctors

Patients who want to receive the medicinal benefits of cannabis don’t have a lot of options in France. Sativex is the only cannabis-based medication permitted, and it’s only prescribed to patients with MS. Those who receive a prescription can obtain a 30-day supply. Then, every six months, they must return to their physician to get their prescription renewed.

Only specialists who study multiple sclerosis and neurologists who have been authorized by ANSM are permitted to prescribe Sativex.

Stay Informed About French Medical Marijuana Laws

As countries throughout Europe change their stance and legalize medical marijuana, this hot-button issue may soon be up for debate in the French Parliament. Be sure to get the latest news about this issue from

We also have a plethora of other resources to help you research the topic of medical marijuana use. Have a question about cannabis? Our blog answers some of the most frequently asked queries. When it comes to the latest medical marijuana information, we’re here to help.

Resources for Medical Marijuana Patients in France