French Law Regulating Cannabis Cultivation, Use Doesn’t Necessarily Restrict THC

What if one of Europe’s nations with the strictest cannabis prohibitions had inadvertently legalized THC 11 years ago without anyone realizing it? This could be the case in France. But, there is a technicality.

The main law prohibiting the cultivation or use of cannabis in France is Article R5132-86, which prohibits the production, manufacture, transport, import, export, possession, supply, the transfer, acquisition or use of cannabis plants and resin, tetrahydrocannabinols, but with the exception of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol.

Yes, you read that correctly: “except delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol,” or THC, which is the psychoactive molecule of cannabis. Isolated and decarboxylated THC is potentially legal.

The history of the Article R5132-86 text shows that in 2004, an exemption existed for synthetic THC, and in 2007, the word “synthetic” disappeared without explanation. The reason could The Sativex, a cannabis-derived spray containing THC and CBD prescribed to treat spasticity in multiple sclerosis and largely available in Europa, arrived in 2013 for evaluation by the French National Agency for Medicines and Health Products Safety (ANSM), France’s equivalent of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While ANSM officials cleared Sativex for sale in 2014, the spray remains unavailable due to low patient demand and high prices.

Does this mean there will be a massive arrival of THC cartridges in French stores? In theory, it is possible, said Renaud Colson, professor of law at the University of Nantes. Also,  edibles or topicals infused with THC could be legal, he said. Colson points out, however, that “there is little chance that specialized companies will get into this sector of activity, except perhaps adventurers ready to start a judicial fight with an uncertain outcome.”

French law prohibits all cannabis consumption over 0.2 percent of THC, and THC is still part of the list of substances considered as narcotics in France, despite Article R5132-86.

This discrepancy in French law is an illustration of a poor understanding on the subject of drugs, Colson said. He also stressed the need for strict regulation of narcotics.

“Drugs are dangerous, but prohibition makes them even more dangerous,” he said.

France, however, does not intend to decriminalize cannabis, but rather add a fine of 300 euros, or $353.32 US dollars, for consumption or possession of small quantities of cannabis, in addition to a jail sentence.

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