Is Medical Cannabis Legalized in France?

France first permitted the use of medical cannabis back in March of this year. However, its use is strictly regulated, and only available under a limited number of circumstances in a limited number of forms; medical cannabis for smoking, for example, is still prohibited. This use of medical cannabis is distinct from France’s recent authorization and the resulting widespread availability of CBD.

With medical cannabis experiments now in progress in France since March of this year, the use of cannabis in a medical context is partially authorized in France, given certain very strict conditions are met.

You can follow more developments in this story, along with other developments around the world by downloading our free companion cannabis news app.

A Two Year Medical Cannabis Experiment

Since 26 March 2021, 3,000 French patients suffering from serious illnesses (epilepsy, neuropathic pain, multiple sclerosis, etc.) have been undergoing a large study into the use of medical cannabis. They will be treated with therapeutic cannabis for a total of two years throughout the study period.

The medical cannabis they are being provided with comes in the form of oils and dried flowers for inhalation after vaporization. Smoking cannabis, however, is not available under this protocol.

Medical cannabis is already used in many countries. Already, 22 other countries in Europe prescribe it under various conditions and regulations, including the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Luxembourg, and Lithuania. Other countries outside the EU also authorize its use, including Canada, Israel, Chile, Colombia, and thirty-three American states use it.

A Very Controlled and Limited Framework

Under the framework, medical cannabis is strictly controlled and can only be prescribed by doctors and dispensed by pharmacists.

Cannabis-based medicines used during experimentation are finished products containing delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). They can be presented in different pharmaceutical forms which includes:

  • a form for inhalation by vaporisation comprised of dried flowering tops or granules containing THC and CBD;
  • an oral form based on extracts solubilised in an oily matrix in the form of capsules or an equivalent pharmaceutical form containing THC and CBD, or;
  • an oral or sublingual form based on extracts solubilised in an oily matrix containing THC and CBD.

Prescription of medical cannabis in its various forms is limited to the following conditions:

  • neuropathic pain refractory to therapy (drug or non-drug);
  • certain forms of drug-resistant epilepsy
  • certain rebellious symptoms in oncology related to cancer or anticancer treatment;
  • palliative (end-of-life) situations, or;
  • painful spasticity (exaggerated reflex muscle contraction) in multiple sclerosis or other central nervous system pathologies.

Medical Cannabis Not to Be Confused with CBD

CBD or cannabidiol, unlike medical cannabis, is now (but only just recently) widely available in France, so long as it does not contain the THC molecule, another cannabinoid with psychoactive properties. CBD, unlike THC, is a non-addictive asset. Moreover, it is appreciated for its relaxing effects.

On 23 June 2021, the Court of Cassation issued a decision. It specifies that the authorisation of the sale of CBD in France depends on the THC rate (psychotropic molecule). The latter must be less than or equal to 0.2%, which is far below the amount contained in the medical cannabis used in the ongoing trials.

France, which has been reluctant to legalise CBD until now, will have to comply with European legislation. The latter authorises the production and sale of this non-psychotropic cannabis derivative.

It is already available in France in specialised shops. But the French law on its sale remained unclear for these shops. The new regulation provides that “the authorisation for the cultivation, import, export and industrial and commercial use of hemp” be “extended to all parts of the plant”, provided that its THC content – the psychotropic molecule in cannabis – as well as that of the finished products is less than 0.2%.

Relevant Legal texts:

  • Decree no. 2020-1230 of 7 October 2020 on the experimentation of the medical use of cannabis
  • Order of 16 October 2020 setting the specifications of cannabis-based medicines used during the experimentation


(Featured image by Alesia Kozik via Pexels)

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Angelique Moss is a London-based entrepreneur, writer, and traveller. The world of business, finance, and technology, is her preferred cup of tea. She also writes about the developments and discussions on health, art, luxury and media. A top writer for several Medium publications, she has published hundreds of widely read articles on investing, stocks, global markets, cannabis, and technology for multiple platforms. She is also interested in culture, history, and social affairs.

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