The Law on Narcotics

The law is society's rule of conduct, voted for by the representatives of the people and to which everyone must adhere.

Protecting the individual and society, the law stands at the crossroads between the public good and the freedom of the individual. It defines our rights and our duties. It can also prohibit, indeed punish, such actions as are dangerous or prejudicial to ourselves or others.

Applying these principles, the narcotics laws, in accordance with international conventions ratified by France, take into account the aims of the national health policy and have three main precepts: the prohibition of drug use; rehabilitation as an alternative to punishment for drug use; the repression of drug trafficking and its profits at every level. The punishments incurred are proportional to the gravity of the offence committed.

Proposals to modify the law of 31 December 1970, which established the basis for legislation on the use of narcotics in France, are currently in progress.

Narcotics use is forbidden by clause L. 3421-1 of the Public Health Code which provides for a maximum sentence of one year's imprisonment and a fine of €3,750. Since the law of 5 March 2007 regarding the prevention of petty crime, which modified certain articles of the Public Health Code, any person having committed such an offence will also incur a further penalty: the obligation to attend a drug awareness course.

As with all criminal sanctions, these are maximum sentences and in practice, magistrates have a large "margin of appreciation" allowing them to sentence at their discretion.

Imprisonment only occurs in exceptional circumstances.

In case of arrest, the user can thus avoid criminal sanctions by accepting medical, psychological or social aid.

The justice system has a number of possible alternatives to legal proceedings or punishment at its disposal: case closed with a warning, case closed with referral to the health or social services (doctors, psychologists, social workers, associations, etc.), order to seek treatment.

The Public Prosecutor can set in motion, with the agreement of the person arrested, the procedure for criminal "composition" which avoids the case going to trial. Alternative options include community service, payment of a fine, confiscation of the driving licence, etc.

Moreover, any user can, of their own volition, ask for medical assistance (interview, consultation, hospitalisation, etc.) anonymously and free of charge.

To combat the spread of Aids, different forms of hepatitis and other diseases, needle exchange programmes, substitution maintenance therapies (using Subutex or Methadone) and drop-in centres have been set up.

Encouraging someone to use or to smuggle narcotics through publicity or incitement or favorable presentation of products classified as narcotics by whatever means - clothes, jewelry, books and so on – is punishable by 5 years of imprisonment and by a fine of €75,000, even if the incitation was unsuccessful (article L3421-4 of the Public Health code). Punishment is aggravated if the target is under 18 (7 years and €150,000). One of the goals of this law is not to get rid of the debate on drugs but to avoid the development of a "marketing" strategy to promote narcotics. Encouragement of smuggling is punished by 10 years of imprisonment and a €300,000 fine.

Possession of narcotics is punished by 10 years imprisonment and a €500,000 fine.

Effectively, tribunals consider the quantity possessed and its context – possessing a very small quantity for personal usage is generally considered as mere usage.

The seller or "dealer" who sells or offers narcotics – even in a small quantity or for free – to someone else for his personal consumption is liable to 5 years imprisonment and a €75,000 fine.

The punishment is doubled when the narcotics are sold or given to people under 18 or in the premises of teaching or education centers. A user who sells drugs or simply provides a fix free of charge, even to cover his own needs in drugs, can be punished as a dealer.

The law recognizes the look-out, the tout or the middle man (or any other type of complicity) as accomplices of the drug dealer and thus they are all susceptible to prosecution even if they do not receive any financial nor material benefit.

Large-scale narcotics smuggling is liable to very heavy punishment.

Hence the production, manufacturing, import, transportation, selling, etc of narcotics can lead to 10 or 20 years of imprisonment depending on the case and to a €7,500,000 fine:

  • The transportation, supply, sale, purchase, import or export, facilitation of use or illegal exploitation of narcotics is punishable by ten years' imprisonment and a €7,500,000 fine. If any of these acts is committed by an organised gang, the punishments increase to thirty years' imprisonment and a €7,500,000 fine.
  • The production or manufacture of illegal narcotics is punishable by twenty years' imprisonment and a €7,500,000 fine.

The laundering of drug trafficking money into so-called legal funds, with full knowledge of the facts, is punishable by ten years' imprisonment and a €7,500,000 fine. The sentence can be as severe as life imprisonment if the money laundering is concurrent with the direction or organisation of a group whose aim is the production or manufacture of narcotics.

Anyone profiting illegally from trafficking and unable to prove access to an income commensurate with their lifestyle (cars, travel, expenditure) and who, without direct involvement in trafficking, is in regular contact with a trafficker or users of narcotics, risks a maximum sentence of five years' imprisonment and a €7,500,000 fine, unless they can justify the legality of their income (article 222-39-1, aimed at preventing "drug procuring").

The law also punishes professionals who facilitate or tolerate drug use and trafficking.

For example, doctors or pharmacists who prescribe or supply narcotics outside their legal jurisdiction (those obtaining narcotics using false prescriptions are equally liable to punishment); owners of bars or clubs who allow breaches of narcotics legislation (trafficking or consumption) to take place on their premises.

All these penalties can be accompanied by the confiscation of goods or property, an injunction restricting and monitoring freedom of movement, an order to leave the country (for foreigners), as well as other administrative bans (holding a bar licence, possession of a weapon, etc.).

The length of custody for those found using drugs is twenty-four hours, which can be extended a further twenty-four hours with the authorisation of the public prosecutor. For drug trafficking, custody can last up to four days with the authorisation of a magistrate. In both cases, a medical exam is obligatory, as is the intervention of a lawyer.

The tables below resume the main sanctions according to the type of offence (petty or serious crime).





Use of narcotics

- Maximum sentence: 1 year's imprisonment and a €3,750 fine- Supplementary sentence: drug awareness course

- Article L.3421-1 of the Public Health Code- Law passed 5 March 2007 regarding the prevention of petty crime (via supplementary sentencing)

Encouraging the use or trafficking of narcotics, through advertising, incitement or the favourable presentation of products classed as narcotics; even when the incitement is unsuccessful

5 years’ imprisonment and a €75,000 fine

Article L.3421-4 of the Public Health Code

- Inciting a minor to use narcotics- aggravated offence: incitement of a minor under 15 or act committed on or near school property

- 5 years' imprisonment and a €100,000 fine- 7 years' imprisonment and a €150,000 fine

- Article 227-18, paragraph 1 of the Penal Code- Article 227-18, paragraph 2 of the Penal Code

- Inciting a minor to traffick in narcotics(transportation, supply and sale)- aggravated offence : incitement of a minor under 15 or act committed on or near school property

- 7 years' imprisonment and a €150,000 fine- 10 years' imprisonment and a €300,000 fine

- Article 227-18-1, paragraph 1 of the Penal Code- Article 227-18-1, paragraph 2 of the Penal Code

- Illegal possession, transportation, supply, sale, purchase, use of narcotics;- Facilitating the use of narcotics;- Illegal import or export

10 years' imprisonment and a €7,500,000 fine

- Article 222-37, paragraph 1 of the Penal Code- Article 222-37, paragraph 2 of the Penal Code





- Production or manufacture of illegal narcotics

- Act committed as part of an organised group

- 20 years' imprisonment and a €7,500,000 fine

- Imprisonment for up to 30 years.

- Article 222-35, paragraph 1 of the Penal Code

- Article 222-35, paragraph 2

Illegal import or export of narcotics by an organised group



30 years' imprisonment and a €7,500,000 fine Article 222-36, paragraph 2 of the Penal Code

Direction or organisation of a group whose aim is the illegal production, manufacture, import, export, possession, supply, sale, purchase or use of narcotics

Life sentence and a €7,500,000 fine Article 222-34 of the Penal Code
Money laundering concurrent with the direction or organisation of a group whose aim is the illegal production, manufacture, import, (...) of narcotics


From 20 years' imprisonment to a life sentence and a €7,500,000 fine

Article 222-38 paragraph 2 of the Penal Code 



Educate your children


Is current cannabis an average of 10 times more dosed than in 1968 ?

  • Yes
  • No


In 1968, it contained from 0,6 to 6% of THC – TetraHydroCannabinol - principal active substance. In recent years through genetic modifications, hybrids and greenhouse cultures, it can contain up to 35% of THC. Nowadays, cannabis consumed by teenagers does not have anything in common with what their parents knew. For more information about cannabis see “Technical Information” section.

Is anyone who takes drugs a drug-addict ?

  • Yes
  • No


A drug-addict is someone who takes drugs in order to solve problems created by taking drugs. S/he thinks that s/he can stop taking them whenever s/he wants, however, in spite of the harmful consequences caused by consuming drugs, s/he cannot. If the drug-addict experiences withdrawal symptoms he will think only about providing himself with drugs even if it means acting against his morals. The demand is so strong that anything linked with will, effort, love or morals gradually disappears completely. Lies, violence, aggressiveness, moral or physical suffering, self-harm, being afraid to take part in everyday life become the norm. Because of these evil acts, the drug-addict looses his/her self-esteem and goes deeper into loneliness and suicidal urges.

Would you lend your car to your child knowing that he/she cannot drive ?

  • Yes
  • No


No parent would lend his car to his child knowing he/she has not learnt to drive. It would also be unconscionable to let one’s teenager go out without having taught him/her what drugs are. Nowadays availability of these products is such that youth can procure them in all the places they frequent – educational establishments, parties, class dinners, rallies, sport clubs... Parents must inform themselves objectively and scientifically about the products so to educate their children on drugs and provide them with the arguments to refuse them. Let us remember that drug addiction doesn’t just happen to others!

Can a psychotropic drug lead to ill being, depression, suicide?

  • Yes
  • No


Any psychotropic drug, be it legal - anxiolytic, tranquillizer, benzodiazepine, neuroleptic - or illegal - street drugs - leads to ill-being, depression and to suicide. See table with side effects of psychotropic drugs – Technical Information/Classification .

Voir le tableau des effets secondaires des drogues psychotropes (Fiches  / Classification)

Is consumption of cannabis traceable in the body one week after consuming ?

  • Yes
  • No

ouiThe half-life of an active substance is the time required by a healthy body, with no previous drug use, to eliminate 50% of the absorbed substance. In the case of cannabis, the half-life is 96 hours or 4 days. This means that within 4 days the body has eliminated 50% of the initial dose. 4 days later, there will be 25% of the product left… Within 28 days, cannabis will be totally eliminated from the body of a person who has not consumed it regularly. Traces of decayed THC may be found in a regular consumer’s body up to 40 days after the last take. According to Dr Chamayou’s thesis, 18 months are needed to be completely cleared of cannabis.