Article France: Possession of Small Amounts of Drugs Now Subject to Fines

(Sept. 23, 2020) On September 1, 2020, a French law giving police officers authorization to issue on-the-spot fines to those caught in possession of small amounts of certain drugs entered into force. The new measure, which was passed in 2019 by the French legislature to amend article L3421-1 of the Public Health Code, is by no means a step towards decriminalization. Indeed, using illicit drugs remains punishable by up to one year of jail time and a fine of up to 3,750 euros (about US$4,450) under article L3421-1. However, under the new provision, prosecution for drug possession may be avoided by the payment of a fine of 200 euros (about $237). This fine may be reduced to 150 euros (about $178) if it is paid within 15 days, but is increased to 450 euros (about $534) if paid after 45 days. Even if the option to be fined is chosen over a prosecution in court, however, the offense of possessing illegal drugs is still added to the offender’s criminal record.

The new measure applies to possession of no more than 50 grams of cannabis, 5 grams of cocaine, 5 pills of ecstasy or 5 grams of ecstasy powder. However, local prosecutors may lower these limits within their jurisdiction. For example, the limit for cannabis was set at 20 grams in the city of Lille, and 30 grams in the town of Créteil. Additionally, most jurisdictions have chosen to exclude heroin and cocaine entirely from this scheme.

The main goals of this measure are to ease the backlog of cases in criminal courts and simplify the work of law enforcement officers. Before being applied nationwide, the option to impose a fine instead of charging in court had been deployed experimentally in the cities of Reims, Créteil, and Rennes since June 16, 2020. Between June 16 and August 26, 545 fines were imposed in these cities, including 172 in Rennes. Of these 172 in the city of Rennes, 166 fines were for possession of cannabis, and seven were for possession of cocaine. According to the prosecutor of Rennes, 32% of the people fined had already paid their fine.

Despite having some of Europe’s strictest drug laws, France has the highest rate of cannabis consumption on the continent, and the third highest rate of cocaine use. 67,500 persons were convicted of possession of narcotics in France in 2017.

About this Item

Title
France: Possession of Small Amounts of Drugs Now Subject to Fines
Online Format
web page

Rights & Access

Publications of the Library of Congress are works of the United States Government as defined in the United States Code 17 U.S.C. §105 and therefore are not subject to copyright and are free to use and reuse.  The Library of Congress has no objection to the international use and reuse of Library U.S. Government works on loc.gov. These works are also available for worldwide use and reuse under CC0 1.0 Universal. 

More about Copyright and other Restrictions.

For guidance about compiling full citations consult Citing Primary Sources.

Credit Line: Law Library of Congress

Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

France: Possession of Small Amounts of Drugs Now Subject to Fines. 2020. Web Page. https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2020-09-23/france-possession-of-small-amounts-of-drugs-now-subject-to-fines/.

APA citation style:

(2020) France: Possession of Small Amounts of Drugs Now Subject to Fines. [Web Page] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2020-09-23/france-possession-of-small-amounts-of-drugs-now-subject-to-fines/.

MLA citation style:

France: Possession of Small Amounts of Drugs Now Subject to Fines. 2020. Web Page. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2020-09-23/france-possession-of-small-amounts-of-drugs-now-subject-to-fines/>.

More Articles like this