Will France move the cannabis decriminalization issue forward in the EU this year?
One of the more interesting issues of the French election this year was the drug policy of all major candidates. All but one, Marie Le Pen, promised some kind of change in the status quo.
Cannabis is used daily by about 700,000 French citizens. 17 million French people have tried it at least once. Yet it remains illegal. Being caught with cannabis can result in up to one year in prison and a 3,750 euro fine. It is also a headache for authorities. The average processing time per pot case for the police and magistrates is six hours. Law enforcement is also not unaware of what is going on elsewhere – or the futility of busting low level users and sellers.
Emmanuel Macron, France’s new president promised to change all of that once elected. He has continued to say he will keep his promise by the end of the year.
But what will the shape of France’s new stance on cannabis look like?
How far Macron will go this time on cannabis depends on a couple of issues. Europe is not through its Brexit aftershock yet. In fact, they are really just getting going. Add to that the widely-expected re-election of Angela Merkel to her fourth term as German Chancellor and steady as she goes seems to be the watchword in Europe.
Macron could just end prison terms for those caught with cannabis. He does not have to officially decriminalize cannabis. He might well stay within the lines of conservative if he does that. Then again, given what else is going on in Europe right now on this front, and he might well chart a slightly different course.
France of course sits right next door to three legalizing cannabis states. Spain, the Netherlands and Germany. If Macron is serious about stopping the black market in France, there is a good chance he will go as far as he can on the decriminalization bandwagon.
Does this mean that the French might follow the Swiss or even Dutch in this regard anytime soon? That is seen by most as highly unlikely.
Regardless, it is clear that some kind of reform is coming on the cannabis front in France by the end of the year. The jury is still out, however, on what form it will take. Either as a first step, or down the road.