By Aurelien Bernard
In France, nothing has changed since a 1970s law prohibited the possession and consumption of cannabis, including in a private place. This law was initially intended to redirect consumers toward the health care system while attempting to dismantle the networks of drug traffickers in the country.
This law has increasingly been applied in a repressive way by police, putting pressure on already disadvantaged populations.
Today in Europe, France has the most stringent cannabis laws on record. A simple offense is often given a warning, but approximately 200,000 people are arrested each year.
Despite these laws, the French consume about 30 tons of cannabis consumed per month — among the most in Europe. Cannabis prohibition in France cause the same problems as elsewhere: persecuted consumers, a thriving black market, violence, adulterated products, people imprisoned for simple use, and sick people who are not allowed to treat themselves with a plant that has shown to have medicinal benefit.
Some politicians have tried to abolish the prohibition of cannabis in France. Esther Benbassa, MP, presented a bill to the Senate in 2014 to legalize cannabis. The bill was rejected.
Emmanuel Macron, the current president, hesitated during his campaign to take a side between legalization and decriminalization. Ultimately, the plan he set forth was to levy a fine on cannabis consumers caught with the plant.
France’s current Home minister, Gérard Collomb, announced on May 2017 that the fine will be “in place within 3 to 4 months.” In September 2017, French citizens learned unofficially that the government intended to hear expert testimony to decide how to implement this fine.
It was only at the request of pro-cannabis associations and harm-reduction activists that the latter were invited to the hearing. They were not included in the original diary, which forecasted to only receive law enforcement or justice comments on the matter.
This commission subsequently released a report that has caused alarm among stakeholders in favor of cannabis law reform. The report requests that a fine be systematically levied for any simple use infraction in public while keeping the possibility of criminal prosecution.
Poulliat and Reda, the bipartisan MPs rapporteurs of the bill, only penalize consumers twice under this decriminalization proposal. Before the proposal, consumers only faced criminal charges. Under the proposal, consumers are fined, but may still face criminal prosecution.
The predicted amount of the fine was published this week, hidden in an 82-page report on Justice’s evolution program from 2018 to 2022: 300 €.
While French officials only talk about decriminalization, 52 percent of French citizens have expressed that decriminalization does not address enough — they want legalization