The three were among four people detained this week after the so-called “coffee shops” — which have had long queues out their doors in recent weeks — were searched by France's anti-drug squad. They are being charged with importing and offering illicit drugs as well as “encouraging the use of narcotics”. The fourth person was released.
The shops claim to be legally offering marijuana buds, oils and other products obtained from plants with less than the French limit of 0.2 percent of THC, the psychotropic compound that produces a high. Instead, the products contain cannabidiol, or CBD, a compound used for medical marijuana treatments which is authorised in France.
But prosecutors said that at one shop, analysis of two varieties of herb on sale found THC levels of 0.26 and 0.55 percent. At the other store in Paris, called Cofyshop near the Place de la Republique, THC levels were under the limit, but prosecutors said the sale of cannabis in the form of pollen, powders or oil is prohibited even if they contain zero THC.
Both shops have since been shut down.
The government has announced plans to soften penalties for cannabis use, scrapping potential prison sentences for on-the-spot fines, but it remains opposed to legalising the drug.
A recent survey found 51 percent in favour of limited legalisation, reflecting a growing trend toward more relaxed rules in Europe and the United States.