France has some of the most strict marijuana laws that are punishable by fines and jail sentences. While the rest of the world is focusing on the growing cannabis industry, France has stayed strict with their policies. A special hearing at the United Nations was called recently to discuss how France’s views on Cannabis will not be tolerated and is not in alignment with other members of the European Union. The pressure from the UN’s special summit on drugs may force France to reevaluate their views on marijuana.
For 45 years, governments in France have held on to some of the harshest and most outdated cannabis policies in Europe. And even though change is happening all around the EU, with neighbors Spain and Italy pushing toward reform, it still seems hard for this “country of liberties” to escape the vicious circle of cannabis prohibition.
After a series of massive terror attacks on French soil, the world rose up in solidarity to celebrating the French values of freedom, fraternity, and equality apparently — qualities apparently targeted by the attackers. But those ethical values, inherited from the French Revolution, know one exception: the approach to drugs and drug users — and in particular, cannabis consumers.
The obvious contradiction of between the policy and the freedoms enshrined in the French constitution has been pointed out, but it hasn’t moved the political needle. It hardly seems to matter if a left- or right-wing government is in power. The present government’s plan against drugs is one of the toughest ever, despite socialist President François Hollande’s supposedly softer approach.
The consequences of these repressive policies make France stand out rather awkwardly against the backdrop of other EU countries. Access to medical cannabis is still nonexistent, while consumption is among the highest in Europe and keeps rising. Poor-quality, expensive, potentially unhealthy hashish is about the only thing most consumers can buy.
At the same time, drug-related violence is exploding across France. And it’s no longer confined to neglected neighborhoods or cities like Marseille that have a reputation for smuggling and drug trade. The dealing and associated violence has spread even to downtown areas and calm, quiet neighborhoods.
A thin ray of hope emerged this summer, after French drug czar Danièle Jourdain-Menninger declared it “no more bearable today to have provisions in our Criminal Code providing jail penalties for drug use.” But what should have been big news went largely unnoticed by French and international media.
The United Nations’ special summit on drugs, held last April in New York, made yet another thing clear: The government acknowledged that France’s present cannabis policies are closer to those of some of the world’s most disreputable nations than to policies of most fellow EU members.
Less than nine months before the presidential elections, the acknowledgment by drug czar Jourdain-Menninger opened the door for a meaningful debate about the merits of cannabis prohibition. Emmanuel Macron, a possible candidate for the presidency, has already seized the opportunity, calling legalization an effective way to deal with current problems. Will France finally free its citizens of cannabis prohibition? Only time, and the mobilization of civil society, will tell.