About 1.2 million French 11-75-year-olds smoke cannabis at least 10 times a month, making them regular users, according to the OFDT French drugs watchdog, and one in five French people say they have used the drug.
That makes the French Europe’s highest cannabis consumers, an OFDT report says.
And, while cocaine use is down in Spain and the UK, it is rising in France, making it the second most popular illicit drug after cannabis.
The consumption of legal stimulants still dwarfs that of illegal ones, with 13.4 million smokers and 8.8 million regular drinkers of alcohol.
The OFDT report came out on the same day as a Europe-wide one that drew attention to the spread of new synthetic drugs, which are invented faster than the authorities can classify them.
Their distribution has been greatly facilitated by the internet the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) said in its annual report.
In 2012 73 new psychoactive substances were detected, compared to 49 in 2011.
"A recent development is an increasing proportion of substances reported that are from less known and more obscure chemical groups," the report said. “Many of the products on sale contain mixtures of substances, and the lack of pharmacological and toxicological data means it is hard to speculate on long term health implications of use."
About a quarter of Europe’s adult population has used an illicit drug at some point in their lives.
Police in the Paris region have launched a crackdown on the drugs trade this year, leading to the arrest of more than 10,000 people in the first four months of 2013, the weekly Paris police report said on Wednesday.
Over one tonne of cannabis, 50kg of cocaine and 11 kg of heroin have been seized, along with 3.6 million euros in cash.
The police cite as examples of their action:
- The arrest of six men on 21 May with two kg of cocaine, four kg of heroin, 1,500 euros and a car worth 180,000 euros;
- A 25-year-old motorist who took flight when he saw a police patrol, revealing 14kg of cannabis resin when his boot flew open after he crashed into a motorway security barrier.