France Country Drug Report 2018

Drug markets

The cannabis market in France has undergone changes in the last six years. Seizure data indicate that the cannabis resin market remains larger than the herbal cannabis market, although the latter is becoming increasingly dynamic. In France, herbal cannabis, the only illicit substance produced locally, is cultivated mainly by individuals on a small scale, although in recent years the increasing involvement of some criminal groups has been noted. Cross-border trading of herbal cannabis, mainly from the Netherlands but also from Spain and from Albania, has also been reported. Cannabis resin, the main drug trafficked in France, originates from Morocco and enters France through Spain, although some organised groups increasingly use Libya as a transit country or smuggle it directly via the Mediterranean route. The market for cannabis resin competes with that for herbal cannabis, and widespread law enforcement operations increase the costs and reduce the profitability of trafficking operations. There is also evidence that the potency of cannabis products has increased in recent years. In addition, some of the traditional cannabis resin trafficking organisations have been refocusing their work on more profitable operations, such as cocaine trafficking.

The cocaine market accounts for the second largest share of the French illicit drug market. Cocaine is mainly trafficked from South America, with French overseas departments and territories in the Americas playing an increasing role in these activities.

Heroin, originating in Afghanistan, is mainly trafficked via the Balkan route, enters the country primarily from the Netherlands, and is intended for domestic use and further transit to the Spanish and Italian markets. The heroin market, although in decline compared with the 1990s, has shown some signs of revival in the last few years in some parts of France, where user-dealer micro-networks play an important role in maintaining the availability of heroin. Moreover, the strong presence of Albanian criminal networks specialising in dealing heroin has been noted in eastern France. There is also a significant illicit market for opioid-containing medications, mainly diverted from healthcare services.

Synthetic stimulants are chiefly smuggled from the Netherlands and Belgium. France is also a transit country for dealers targeting the United Kingdom and Spain. Since 2009, the MDMA/ecstasy market has experienced renewed dynamism and there has been a diversification in marketed products, in addition to the appearance of high-potency products targeting mainly those in recreational settings and young people. New psychoactive substances (NPS) are offered through various segments of an internet-based market, and those arriving in France are mainly produced in Asia, particularly in China and India. Seizures of NPS indicate that cathinone-type substances dominate the market, followed by arylcyclohexylamines (primarily ketamine) and synthetic cannabinoids. In 2016, a total of 44 substances were identified for the first time in France, eight of which were identified for the first time in the EU.

Particular concern in the last two years has been raised over an unprecedented increase in violence associated with drug trafficking in several French cities.

Taking into account the nature of the illicit drug market in France, one of the main priorities of law enforcement remains interception of cannabis and cocaine trafficking routes in the Mediterranean and Caribbean. Law enforcement focuses also on money laundering and reducing drug supply at a national level.
 

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Methodological note: Analysis of trends is based only on those countries providing sufficient data to describe changes over the period specified. The reader should also be aware that monitoring patterns and trends in a hidden and stigmatised behaviour like drug use is both practically and methodologically challenging. For this reason, multiple sources of data are used for the purposes of analysis in this report. Caution is therefore required in interpretation, in particular when countries are compared on any single measure. Detailed information on methodology and caveats and comments on the limitations in the information set available can be found in the EMCDDA Statistical Bulletin.