It is not the election of a centrist president that has the French breathing a bit easier. Marijuana reform is finally coming to France.
French marijuana reform has moved slowly. Reform here has tended to be on the trailing end of EU regional reform. Next door to the immediate west, Spain has embarked on an experiment a bit like the Dutch, also on the country’s northeast corner. Even the British have begun to regulate CBD at this point. The Irish are admitting medical use. Further east, of course, the Germans have embarked on full-fledged medical integration. They, however, are far from the only country. Switzerland, Croatia and the Czech Republic have all admitted that the drug has medical efficacy and are creating both legislation and markets for the drug. Penalties for possession and use are, as a result, non-existent for regular users. It is selling and larger scale growing that is targeted by police.
Not so France. As of this writing, it is still possible to be prosecuted for mere possession. Right now, offenders face up to a year in jail and a fine of around $5,000 per incident. Last year, 180,000 people faced some kind of find for a drug conviction. Such convictions take about 12 hours of magistrates and police time to process.
And the result? Just like everywhere else, the law and order approach is just not working.
During the recent French election, every candidate had some kind of cannabis and drug reform platform except Marie Le Pen, the far-right candidate.
Emmanuel Macron, a socialist banker turned politician won the election.
That means that some kind of drug reform is on its way. In fact, Macron has already promised to end prison terms for cannabis use by the end of the year. Essentially his proposal will decriminalize the drug. People busted for possession will face a ticket (and about a $100 fine).
Given the fact that 17 million French people have tried pot, and about 700,000 use it daily, it is also likely that Macron’s initial reforms will begin to open up the discussion about greater legalization down the road.
What French Reform Would Mean to Europe
At this point, France is the last major European country to drag its feet on the cannabis issue. This appears to be on the verge of changing. Especially given the country’s large pharma industry and France’s growingly firm alliance with Germany, there is a great deal of promise for medical cannabis development in central Europe as a result.
It is also highly unlikely that Macron will ignore the economic impact of legalization. Cannabis promises to open whole new fields of medicine. Domestic cultivation creates jobs. The industry itself is an economic boon to tax coffers. While it is not likely to see a cannabis café opening in Paris this year, there is already one in Rome.
Reality? French activists on the left have been crusading for reform for decades, just like everywhere else. For many reasons, however, unlike in the U.S., the far right in France to date has just not been interested in this issue.
With the medical efficacy questions already definitively answered as a general issue if not for every condition, and tax revenue on the table already in Switzerland for a broadly legalized industry, it is unlikely that someone like Macron will stick his head in the sand on any of these fronts.
Canna croissants anyone?
Redrawing the Medical Map
When France begins to reform its cannabis laws, it will be equivalent, roughly, to the situation that exists in the United States right now. The majority of U.S. states have signed up for medical reform.
While European states have national sovereignty, this makes their flip to the legalization of cannabis even more interesting. These are federal-level reforms.
To make the analogy even more immediate, when France finally embraces cannabis reform, it will create an entire continent where cannabis is no longer illegal.
The impact downstream from that, particularly given the focus first on medical use here, will be significant. It will mean that the richest, most populated region of the planet will have bowed to the reality of cannabis reform.
And that, thanks to Macron’s commitment, post-election, means that this is also the picture Europe has just painted for itself as of 2018.
No matter how small, this first French step is, therefore, it is a significant domino in reform across Europe. And as a knock on effect, every other region and country considering reform right now.