French election: Four out of five presidential candidates support relaxation of cannabis laws

Police say Emmanuel Macron's proposals to give warnings and fines to cannabis users, who face a prison sentence under current laws, will save time and resources

Katie Forster
Thursday 06 April 2017 12:16 BST
A woman smokes a joint during a 2014 demonstration in Paris calling for the legalisation of cannabis
A woman smokes a joint during a 2014 demonstration in Paris calling for the legalisation of cannabis (Getty Images)

Four out of the five main candidates in the French presidential election support a relaxation of the country’s cannabis laws.

Under the current law, first passed in 1970, taking any illegal drug carries the risk of a one-year prison sentence and a fine of up to 3,750 euros.

However cannabis remains one of the most popular illegal drugs in France, with 47 per cent of 17-year-olds saying they have tried it, according to a recent survey by the French Observatory for Drugs and Addiction.

Centrist Emmanuel Macron, currently leading polls for the first round of voting on 23 April, and right-wing candidate Francois Fillon, have both said police should issue warnings and on-the-spot fines for cannabis use.

These measures may be designed to appear strict, but are in fact a relaxation of the current law. Officers have welcomed the proposals, saying they will cut down court time and paperwork for an offence that in many cases police turn a blind eye to.

Left-wing candidates Jean-Luc Melenchon and Benoit Hamon have said the drug should be legalised, while only Marine Le Pen, of the far-right Front National, is against any change to the law.

“It’s a completely crazy idea. Instead we must use every force available to us to fight against drugs and drug dealers,” Ms Le Pen’s presidential campaign director David Rachline told radio station France 2 in October.

Protesters calling for the legalisation of marijuana take to the streets of Paris in May 2015 (Getty Images)

Until now, only smaller parties, such as the greens or radical left-wing and communist parties, have said the law on marijuana should be changed.

Under Mr Macron’s proposals, police could hand out warnings and fines of 100 euros for those caught smoking on the street.

Philippe Capon, from the French police union, told Le Monde the severity of the current law had “shown its limits and it is relatively ineffective”.

“We need to make progress and save time and force capacity, while continuing to develop preventative measures.”

Mr Hamon has said he wants to legalise cannabis completely, with state-controlled and taxed sales points where adults can buy cannabis.

But this is not the boldest point in his manifesto – he has also said there should be a tax on the wealth created by robots who replace the jobs of humans.

Mr Melenchon has also said cannabis should be legalised so it can be better controlled. “Don’t call me a hypoocrite. What’s hypocritical is to say it’s forbidden when we know that everyone smokes,” he said in a video posted on his website, reported C News Matin.

Recent law changes in a number of US states may have encouraged French politicians to shift their stance on the issue, according to Le Monde.

Canada has also announced plans to legalise possession of the drug.

In the 19th century, Parisian literary circles would gather to smoke hashish and take other drugs, including opium.

The ‘Club des Hashischins’, which included famous authors such as Victor Hugo, Charles Baudelaire and Honore de Balzac, would hold monthly meetings at a hotel on the Ile Saint-Louis in central Paris.

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