France is the largest country of cannabis consumers. According to a study by theFrench Office for Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT) of 2014, 17 million people acknowledge having used cannabis at least once and 700 people admit to using it daily.

“Narcotics” is a generic term designating all prohibited substances, the repression of which is framed by the law of December 31, 1970 and the Public Health Code.

How do you know if a product is illegal?

Heroin, cocaine, cannabis… There, it's simpler, because these products are known. But for other products, in particular sold on the internet, it is much less so.

We know that a substance is prohibited if it appears on the French list of narcotic products issued by the Ministry of Health.

The list currently lists more than 200 products. The latest addition concerns synthetic cannabinoids specially adapted for electronic cigarettes (powders that can be smoked, vaporized or ingested). Used and sold on the internet since 2008, this product was added to the list by a decree of March 31, 2017, published in the Official Journal on April 6, 2017.

Any use, transport, manufacture, etc. of products appearing on this list is illegal and therefore liable to criminal penalties.

The law does not punish according to the quantities held, transferred: it is an assessment left to the judge. In general, the smaller the quantities, the more we will be in use. Conversely, the higher the quantities, the more we will be involved in drug trafficking.

Note: a sentence less than or equal to 10 years in prison is an offense (tried before a criminal court). A sentence of more than 10 years in prison is a crime (tried before an assize court). Offenses against drug legislation may be criminal or tortious, which has consequences on the length of pre-trial detention, on the penalty of imprisonment and/or criminal imprisonment incurred, on the jurisdiction that will be brought to judge the facts (Correctional Court or Special Court of Assizes).

Use and provocation to use

"The illicit use of one of the substances or plants classified as narcotics is punishable by one year's imprisonment and a fine of 3 euros".

Article L.3421-1 of the Public Health Code

This concerns private or public use, regardless of the product. The law does not distinguish between “soft” drugs and “hard” drugs. The penalties for use will be the same whether it is heroin or cannabis.

There were 1431 prison sentences for "use" in 2012.

Note: For first-time offenders, the prosecution can offer a alternative measure to prosecution is :

  • A reminder of the law accompanied by an awareness course on the dangers of drug use.
  • A penal mediation accompanied by a therapeutic injunction, fine ...

Contrary to the reminder of the law, this measure will be included in the criminal record in B1 but not in B2. A prison sentence limited to half the maximum sentence (i.e. 6 months) may be proposed in the context of a reminder of the law.

The penalties are aggravated if the use is committed in the exercise or on the occasion of the exercise of its functions : Clearly, at his place of work (5 years and a 75 euro fine).

Transport, possession, offer, transfer, acquisition, employment

The offenses listed in articles 222-34 et seq. of the Penal Code cover and punish several types of conduct: production or manufacture, import and export, transport, possession, offer or sale, acquisition of narcotics, laundering of drug trafficking, etc.

In view of the situation, the prison sentences and fines incurred are more or less important.

The law also provides for an aggravation of repression, in particular when drug trafficking is committed in an organized gang or in a state of legal recidivism.

In addition, additional penalties or a period of security may be imposed by the trial court.

Anyone who has accomplished one or more of the following acts (article 10-750 of the penal code) will be punished with 000 imprisonment and a fine of 000 euros (maximum):


We think of go fast ... But the fact of walking in the street with the product on you, or going up to your neighbor's house ... will also constitute transport.


Having it in your pocket, in your bag… Walking down the street with a “ball” of cannabis in your pocket will constitute transport and detention.


The fact of offering it to others.


There is no distinction between giving up to sell or to give away.

But cession to a person for personal consumption is less severely punished by 5 years in prison and a fine of 75 euros (article 000-222 of the penal code).

The acquisition

The purchase may be for yourself or for others.


This concerns all forms of use, for example making “a line” or “rolling a joint” for a third party who is not very skilled with his hands… And this even if the product is not consumed.

The export and import of illicit products (article 226-36 of the penal code).

This concerns everything that fates or enters the national territory, even for personal use.

In addition to criminal prosecutions, there may be those from customs.

Note: You do not have to have committed all of them at the same time to be prosecuted. Each planned case can be pursued in isolation or combined with each other.

For example, “spinning a joint” of cannabis = use + offer ou holding + disposal The possibilities are variable and endless. Everything will depend on the charges brought by the prosecution who, let us remember, being at the initiative of prosecution is responsible for qualifying the facts.

Confiscation of the product, facilities, etc. is compulsory (articles L 3421-2 et seq. Of the Public Health Code and 222-49 paragraph 1 of the penal code).

The penal code distinguishes small-scale trafficking (offenses) from those belonging to organized gangs or networks at the origin of drug networks whose actions will be considered as crimes.

Production and manufacture of illicit products

This also concerns the cultivation of cannabis plants (one is enough), the manufacture of synthetic products ...

20 years' imprisonment and a fine of 7 euros (article 500-000 of the penal code).

The import, export, manufacture and production of narcotics committed in an "organized gang"

The organized gang can be selected from two people.

These acts are punishable by 30 years' imprisonment and a fine of 7 euros (article 500-000 of the penal code).

The management of a group whose activity is drug trafficking

These facts are punishable by life imprisonment and a fine of 7 euros (article 500-000 of the penal code)

Note: to all this penal arsenal will be added the additional penalties:

  • Professional prohibitions
  • License confiscation
  • Therapeutic injunction

The application of additional penalties will depend on the conditions in which the alleged acts took place and on the profile of the person being prosecuted.

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A comment

  1. Hello, a friend and his trainer were arrested at the airport in Germany on their return in possession of a block of cannabis. His trainer had asked him to carry his backpack, my friend does not smoke (nor cigarettes) the problem is that he has been in the police station for a few days and released with a heavy fine!!! what recourse does he have? his trainer was able to pay a sum and was released, knowing that the bag belonged to him!!! he is desperate.

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