French deputies on Wednesday urged President Emmanuel Macron's government to stop dragging its feet over testing cannabis for medical use, saying its tardiness compared to other European countries was "worrying".

Presenting its interim report on the controversial question of legalising the therapeutic use of cannabis, a parliamentary committee said France should consider state-controlled production of the plant, which is currently banned in France.

"It's time that France emerged from the dark ages concerning cannabis, which is a drug but can also be a medicine," said Jean-Baptiste Moreau, the chief author of the report.

"For patients today, it is unbearable to have to wait a little longer," he said.

The government had failed "to act in a sufficiently pro-active way", the committee's president, Robin Reda, added at a news conference.

Parliament last year authorised medical cannabis trials on 3,000 patients with serious ailments such as epilepsy, neuropathic pain or side effects from chemotherapy.

They were to start this month, before health authorities pushed them back to January 2021 citing the coronavirus pandemic as the reason.

Still strictly banned in France
Still strictly banned in France AFP / PRAKASH MATHEMA

Last week, 50 doctors and patients' associations called for the government to publish a decree quickly so treatment could start in the first quarter of next year.

"We must avoid any more delays", the parliamentary committee said Wednesday, with Moreau threatening to submit a draft law to parliament if the government failed to act.

Over time, 700,000 patients in France could become eligible for cannabis treatment, the report said.

Sourcing the quantities needed abroad would be "an aberration in economic and health terms", the report said.

France therefore needed its own domestic cannabis production sector, it said, adding that many farmers were eager to grow the plant.

This, however, would require a change in the law which currently bans production of plants with over 0.2 percent of THC, the psychotropic component of cannabis.

Earlier this week, meanwhile, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin poured cold water on the idea that France could also start experimenting with cannabis for recreational use.

"As interior minister and poltician I cannot tell parents who are fighting for their children to give up their drug addiction that we are going to legalise this shit," he said.