France Country Drug Report 2019

Drug markets

The cannabis market in France has undergone changes in the last few years. Seizure data indicate that the cannabis resin market remains larger than the herbal cannabis market. In France, herbal cannabis is produced mainly by individuals on small-scale cultivation sites, although, in recent years, the increasing involvement of criminal groups has been noted, with some large-scale operations dismantled. Cross-border trafficking of herbal cannabis, mainly from the Netherlands but also from Spain and Albania, has also been reported. Cannabis resin originates from Morocco and predominantly enters France through Spain. There is 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 important role.

Heroin, originating from Afghanistan, is mainly trafficked using the Balkan route. It enters the country primarily via the Netherlands and is intended for domestic use or further transit to the Iberian Peninsula, Italy or Switzerland. The heroin market has shown some signs of revival in the last few years in certain parts of France, where user-dealer networks play an important role in maintaining its availability. The presence of Albanian criminal networks specialising in heroin distribution has been reported in the east of France. In parallel, there is a sizeable market for opioid-containing medicines.

Synthetic drugs are imported from the Netherlands and Belgium for use in France, which is also a transit country for these drugs en route to the United Kingdom and Spain. Since 2009, the MDMA/ecstasy market has experienced renewed dynamism: there has been a diversification in products and the MDMA content of tablets is reported to have risen in the last few years. New psychoactive substances (NPS) are bought and sold online and are mainly produced in China and India. Seizures of NPS indicate that cathinone-type substances dominate the market, followed by arylcyclohexylamines (ketamine) and synthetic cannabinoids. In 2017, a total of 153 different substances were seized in France, mainly through postal packages.

Tackling cannabis and cocaine trafficking in the Mediterranean and Caribbean remains the main priority of law enforcement.

Data on the retail price and purity of the main illicit substances seized are shown in the ‘Key statistics’ section.

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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.