History, Laws &
for Cannabis in France
As the largest consumer of cannabis in Europe, France entered the medicinal cannabis market through a two-year trial program in March of 2021. Though recreational cannabis remains illegal in France, the country’s medicinal cannabis industry shows promise for the future.
Here’s what to know about the history of cannabis in France, current French cannabis laws, and how to enter the French medicinal cannabis industry.
the French Cannabis Market
France has the highest number of cannabis users per capita in the EU and is the largest consumer of cannabis throughout Europe. Though France has been known to have some of the strictest cannabis policies and laws in western Europe, the French cannabis market continues to be on the rise.
In 2021, the French cannabis market was estimated to be valued at 5.4 billion euros, according to Market Research. Unfortunately, 95% of the total market is believed to be from the illicit market. Cannabis in France is projected to reach a market volume of $552.8 million by 2027.
France is the largest industrial hemp producer in Europe and the third-largest in the world, producing over 70% of all industrial hemp in the EU.
As industrial hemp climbs in popularity, so does France’s hemp market. Hemp fiber, alone, is currently worth an estimated 40 million euros ($47.5 million), while the CBD market is worth 131 million euros ($156 million) and expected to grow at a staggering 244% between 2020 and 2030.
Considering this exploding market and the fact that the French legal cannabis market has only just begun to grow, there are potentially numerous opportunities for the cannabis-minded entrepreneur seeking out new prospects.
If you’re interested in joining this lucrative industry, speak with a cannabis consultant. The professionals at Higher Yields Consulting have decades of combined cannabis consulting experience and can help you figure out how to enter the French cannabis market.
Questions on cannabis
The History of Cannabis in France
Today, France ranks as the highest consumer of cannabis throughout the European Union (EU). As a colonial power, France has a far-reaching history with cannabis — specifically, hashish.
Hashish was central to Egyptian and Islamic culture for hundreds of years before the French arrived and colonized the country. The French soldiers stationed in Rosetta and Alexandria who used hashish while in Egypt then introduced hashish to mainland-France.
In the early 1800s, French scholar Antoine-Isaac Silvestre de Sacy wrote a book about the Assassins of Alamut who, he theorized, imbibed a hashish potion that duped the followers into becoming ruthless killers.
This image of cannabis and violence carried over into the French psyche, and Sacy’s largely fictional works were later invoked by French politicians who argued in favor of prohibiting cannabis in France in the 1950s and 1960s.
Despite the ban on recreational hashish, physicians started prescribing medicinal hashish to patients suffering from cholera, the plague, and even insanity in the 1830s. Their belief was that these conditions were associated with the central nervous system.
But another belief — that cannabis caused insanity, poisoned its users, and made users commit acts of violence — also spread throughout France. When it became evident that hashish could not, in fact, treat conditions like cholera or the plague, it became obsolete by the end of the 19th century.
France formally outlawed medicinal hashish in 1953. Then, in 1961, France became a signatory to the U.N. Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which outlawed cannabis throughout the countries that ratified the convention. Though no longer a colonial power as of 1968, cannabis in France was banned in 1970.
But, as more and more countries legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes, the French government began to reconsider its hardline stance against cannabis in 2019.
In March 2021, the French government implemented a two-year medicinal cannabis pilot program, allowing 3,000 patients with ailments such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, neuropathic pain, and other serious illnesses to obtain medicinal cannabis.
Patients receive cannabis oils and pills, but not smokable products, at no cost. During this initial period, France relies on cannabis imports to serve its patients.
Then, on Feb. 17, 2022, the French government issued a decree authorizing the cultivation, production, manufacture, transport, import, export, and possession of medicinal cannabis.
Currently, the French government is considering whether it should renew the medicinal cannabis pilot program, fully legalize medicinal cannabis, or abandon the medicinal cannabis programs altogether. Further, despite these developments, recreational cannabis in France is only decriminalized.
Entering the French
Though France has only legalized medicinal cannabis through a pilot program that is limited to a handful of suppliers, there is good reason to believe the French cannabis market will continue to grow.
The pilot program winds down in 2023, at which point the government may choose to implement a full medicinal cannabis program. This would provide numerous opportunities for anyone interested in opening a cannabusiness in France.
That said, for the time being, as recreational cannabis in France is only decriminalized, your best bet for starting a business is either medicinal cannabis or CBD.
Medicinal Cannabis in France
French medicinal cannabis was legalized and regulated under the two-year pilot program that became effective in March 2021.
The number of cannabis-based products on the market and the number of suppliers are currently limited. The French Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products (ANSM) regulates the medicinal cannabis industry.
As of March 1, 2022, the ANSM has authorized the growth and production of medicinal cannabis in France by licensed cultivators. However, until recently, all medicinal cannabis dispensed in France was imported into the country from six suppliers. After being selected, imported cannabis products are then distributed to French patients free of charge through hospitals.
Canada-based Aurora Cannabis was the first company to deliver medicinal cannabis to France in mid-2021. A French biotech company called Overseed was the first company to be granted a cultivation license by the French government. Though Overseed is limited to R&D production, the recent changes in French medicinal cannabis cultivation laws show there is an opening for other aspiring French medicinal cannabis cultivators.
Due to amendments to the French public health code, the only way to participate in the new medicinal cannabis supply chain is by obtaining authorization from the Director General of the ANSM. Because this program is in its infancy, gaining authorization is an ongoing process. The ANSM intends to convene with a scientific committee to establish the best way forward.
To stay up to date on the French medicinal cannabis market and to get a head start on your French cannabusiness, contact the professionals at Higher Yields Consulting.
Starting a CBD Business
As of Dec. 30, 2021, cannabis with less than 0.3% THC is allowed for industrial and commercial purposes. To open a CBD business, you’ll need to obtain a number of licenses and authorizations, in addition to the general start-up costs and requirements of opening any business in France.
Here’s how to get started:
- Establish a legal business entity called an “SAS” or “SASU.”
- Declare your new cannabis venture with the local chamber of commerce and adopt the status of “sale of wellness products.”
- Establish a relationship with a French banking institution. Naturally, you’ll need to figure out how you plan to accept payments at your new CBD store.
- Obtain all the lighting, displays, and products. GoGreen Hemp partners with distributors and distribution channels across Europe and is a great resource for wholesale CBD products in France.
Because hemp products and CBD with less than 0.2% THC are widely available and legal throughout Europe, your new CBD business will be set up to take advantage of this highly lucrative and growing market in no time!
Business Opportunities for
Cannabis in France
With the EU allowing hemp with less than 0.2% THC, there is a huge market potentially available in medicinal cannabis in France, as well as in industrial hemp and CBD products.
Your next best step is to speak with a professional cannabis consultant, such as those at Higher Yields Consulting, who can help you understand French cannabis laws and get your new cannabis business off the ground!
Last updated: March 20, 2023