Cannabis in France : 2019 is a turning point

France wrongly appears to be a country where legislation would be tightened up instead of following the current trend of liberalization. On the contrary, several recent developments are paving the way for a controlled liberalization of therapeutic cannabis and hemp leaf exploitation and things are moving fast at both Parliamentary and Government levels, even though key several issues still need to be addressed.

It is now time for businesses and industries to step into the game, to be able to influence the legal and regulatory framework, which will, in any case, evolve in the near future.

 

This month, French Government committed to an experiment on the therapeutic use of cannabis in 2020 – Details are to be decided in the Fall of 2019.

  • In September 2018, ANSM (French National Agency for Medicines and Health Products Safety) mandated an experts committee (CSST) to “assess the relevance and feasibility of making therapeutic cannabis available in France“. After studying the modalities of the experiment, to identify best practices for patient prescription and follow-up, the CSST gave its final opinion to the ANSM which agreed to it.
  • Only five medical applications[1] have been selected for the experiment and only specialized doctors will be able to deliver therapeutic cannabis. The trial will be conducted on a voluntary basis and all health professionals who wish to issue a therapeutic cannabis prescription will go through a training on an online platform.

Next steps:

  • The Health Agency and the Ministry of Health already committed to set up this experiment by the beginning of 2020.
  • ANSM experimentation will have to address several issues: What could be the best practices for the prescription and delivery of therapeutic cannabis? What are the expected delivery channels? What kind of products will be authorized? Etc.

This month marked also a turning point at Parliament: top MP’s from the presidential majority gathered to explore all aspects related to cannabis legalization with the objective to open up the market in the near future.

  • MP Jean-Baptiste MOREAU, “Mister Agriculture” of the presidential majority, organized a second symposium on cannabis at the National Assembly, gathering all key stakeholders.
  • He managed to get support from a dozen of MPs from the presidential majority, with various motives. For example:
    • MPs Moreau and Le Feur aim at establishing a hemp production sector in their impoverished rural departments, seeing the legalization of hemp production as a way to revitalize their territories and recreate wealth. MP MOREAU is set to lead the information mission, which will make him the go-to MP for any related issue regarding cannabis.
    • MP Veran sees therapeutic cannabis as a strong tool for medical purposes.
  • The Chairmen of 4 committees: Roland LESCURE[2], Brigitte BOURGUIGNON[3], Barbara POMPILI[4], Yaël BRAUN-PIVET[5], attended and endorsed his proposition of a parliamentary mission on cannabis, which is a commitment unseen so far. They believe that Parliament should be ahead of Government as they see the tremendous growth opportunity for France.
      • Hence, this “Information Parliamentary Mission” will focus on all the different uses of cannabis (medical, well-being, construction, textile… but also recreational use), in order to provide all stakeholders with the opportunity to examine the different dimensions and issues (agricultural, economic, health, sustainable development, legal…) of the plant, to support further public debate and possible future legislation.

Next steps:

  • This mission is to start working in September and should audition all stakeholders (French and foreign) in the Fall and Winter.
  • Depending upon the stakeholders auditioned, several issues will be dealt with :
    • How could the legalization of hemp exploitation lead to economic growth ?
    • What other sectors would benefit from cannabis legalization? What innovative process could be applied across various sectors?
    • How rural territories could exploit hemp? And to what extent could it bring opportunities for economic development?
    • What would be the health implications in case of therapeutic cannabis legalization ?
    • What regulatory model could France adopt to lead to economic development and fulfil therapeutic purposes? What examples abroad are to be followed?

Several other political initiatives have been recently taken and the debate is growing in the media

  • Over 70 leading figures, including the head of France’s Greens party, Yannick JADOT, which made strong gains in recent European elections, signed a letter early July calling for the legalization of cannabis, arguing it was the “pragmatic” choice.
  • A group of MPs led by former Majority MP François-Michel LAMBERT, tabled a Bill this month calling for “controlled legalization” of cannabis.

French government Advisory Body published a study on the potential economic growth of cannabis in France

  • The French Council of Economic Analysis (CAE), a body tasked with advising the government on public policies estimated that, based on annual consumption of 500 to 700 tons a year, taxes on legal cannabis could bring as much as €2.8 billion to the state and create up to 80,000 jobs. Arguing that the tax proceeds from legal cannabis could help fund efforts to fight trafficking, it called for the setting-up of a state monopoly to license production and sale.

France is reaching a turning point. Influencers and lawmakers are working hard to make cannabis a key issue in Macron’s 2022 presidential campaign

  • French government is known for its restrictive position on cannabis because it has historically been addressed from a recreational perspective. Thus, the newly appointed minister of Ecology stated[6] that “the government’s position is clear: we are against legalization for recreational use”. And Minister for Health Agnes BUZYN, although opening an experimentation on therapeutical cannabis, insisted that she was “against the legalization of cannabis for recreational use. Today, prevention is the top priority of my health policy. I’m fighting hard against smoking, I will not push for the legalization of cannabis, which has the same effects on lungs”. In a paradoxical way the decision to swap since March 2019 a penal sanction for the simple use of cannabis, to the payment of a simple fine, is an illustration of this governments policy to strengthen the enforcement of the ban on cannabis in France.
  • However, the strategy led by MP Moreau and his companions is to shift the debate on the legalization of cannabis, to the demonstration of the economic potential of hemp. In that sense, his commitment to the issue demonstrates a turning point. Up to now, politicians supporting cannabis were almost exclusively from liberal left or the Green party. They are now vastly in the Majority Party, pushing hard from inside, to convince President Macron to seize this opportunity for economic growth.
  • The parliamentary taskforce he is building is a great opportunity for companies to inform on cannabis and cannabis-derived products and to publicly display their interest for the issue. The objective is to step into this momentum, more organized around CBD than THC, by providing concrete insights on the economic and public health benefits associated with a change of regulation, ahead of the 2022 presidential race.

 

Authored by:

Aristide Luneau, Deputy Managing Partner, Interel Group

Moncef Lameche, consultant, Interel Group

 

For more information please contact Aristide Luneau.

To download the report, click here. 


[1] Which are: pain refractory to drug therapies or not, specific severe and drug-resistant forms of epilepsy, supportive care in oncology, palliative care and pain from multiple sclerosis or other central nervous system disorders.

[2] Chairman of the Economic Affairs committee.

[3] Chairwoman of the Social Affairs committee.

[4] Chairwoman of the Sustainable Development committee.

[5] Chairwoman of the Law committee.

[6] During an interview on June 6th.