• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3

'First ever' bill proposes legal cannabis in France

Joshua Melvin · 30 Jan 2014, 17:21

Published: 30 Jan 2014 15:50 GMT+01:00
Updated: 30 Jan 2014 17:21 GMT+01:00

People smoking a joint in France face a maximum penalty of a year behind bars and a €3,750 fine for the first offence, yet 13.4 million French people admit to sparking up at least once in their life. Even France’s top cop, Interior Minister Manuel Vallls, said in a recent interview, he’d tried it “maybe once.”

The numbers go up as you look at the younger portion of the population. France had the unhappy distinction of being the European “champion” of teen pot smokers in 2011 when 24 percent of its 16-year-old kids admitted to smoking at least once a month, daily Le Monde reported.

Not surprisingly legalizing cannabis has come up regularly in France, but the discussion never has never gotten far. In fact, it was only this month that authorities announced medical cannabis spray Sativex had been authorized for sale in France, though only by prescription and solely to multiple sclerosis patients.

It stands in marked contrast to France's more liberal neighbour to the north, the Netherlands, which decriminalized personal use of pot nearly 40 years ago. American states Colorado and Washington went a step further when their voters fully legalized personal possession and use of marijuana in 2013.

Is it France’s turn next? French Senator Esther Benbassa, a green party member who represents an area on the south east border of Paris, believes it’s time to change. She also claims the legalization law she proposed on Tuesday is the first of its kind in France.

Her law would allow government-run retail stores to sell marijuana to adults for recreational use, though the full details won’t be available until the law is unveiled to the press on February 6th. Benbassa told The Local why she is pushing for legalization.

“It’s a subject that remains taboo in France. We have the impression that if we legalize cannabis, all the children, everyone, is going to start taking it. We are among the countries with the most restrictive laws in Europe, but at the same time the number of cannabis smokers continues to increase. There is really a paradox.

“The fact that we proposed the law now is related to what’s happening in the United States, but we were working on it before. If the law has changed in Washington and Colorado,  we felt we had to open the debate now. Prohibition is useless.

“And American President Barack Obama’s statement that marijuana is not any more dangerous than alcohol, that also made us realize it’s time.

“It makes more sense to legalize cannabis in order to better control it. For example, the growing and distribution of cannabis, but why not also check the quality? Why not do more drug abuse prevention? Why not shelter children from drug dealers that sell in front of schools?

“It would help in the fight against the mafia and drug dealers. Why not invest the money that the government would make from legalizing and taxing cannabis into drug abuse prevention?

“We believe that today it is an established fact that people smoke cannabis. So let’s be responsible.

“Compared to the Netherlands, we very far behind. In France we are very repressive when it comes to drugs, but with other things as well. Our politicians make rules based on the question of security.

Story continues below…

“I was on a radio show and was asked by professor of medicine if I was going to distribute hash in schools. There are people out there who will try to misguide people and say 'these leftists are trying to destroy France.' They say we want all the kids to smoke cannabis and make society more indulgent. It's not true.

"The United States is conservative as well, but it’s pragmatic. But in France we are conservative without willing to be practical."

As for whether she has ever smoked marijauana, Benbassa asserted the eroding French tradition of keeping quiet about the private lives of public figures.

"That's a private matter and I'm not going to talk about it." 

Joshua Melvin (joshua.melvin@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Malkovich and Le Monde go to battle in French court

John Malkovich took French daily Le Monde and two of its journalists to court Friday for defamation over a report alleging the US actor had a secret Swiss bank account.

British expats take steps to secure their futures in France
Photo: Oli Bac/Flickr

Brits in France are not waiting around for their politicians to ease their worries, they are taking matters into their own hands to secure their future in the country, which is clouded in uncertainty.

How gay friendly is gay Paris?
The 2014 Gay Pride parade in Paris. Photo: AFP

The French capital is sometimes called "gay Paris", and to mark Saturday's Gay Pride March, we take a look at just how gay friendly the city is.

French drivers 'getting faster and paying less attention'
All photos: AFP

French motorists' bad habits are getting worse, a new study has found.

Common wine blunders you should really avoid in France
Photo: AFP

Don't be a plonk-er. Learn to negotiate the "winefield" in France.

Ten things you didn't know about gay Paris
Do you know where to find penis-shaped bakery goods in Paris? Photo: Legay Choc/Facebook

IN PICTURES
Britain and France mark 100 years since Battle of Somme
All photos: AFP

It was Britain's bloodiest day of battle ever.

What you need to know about France's ban on plastic bags
Photos: AFP

Plastic bags are banned in France as of today, July 1st, although it’s a little bit more complicated than that.

What does the Paris ban on old cars actually mean?
The ever-busy Rue La Fayette in Paris. All photos: AFP

The ban on old cars, trucks, and motorbikes begins today. Got questions? We've got answers.

The small changes to life in France from July 2016
Fancy some Sunday shopping in Paris? Photo: AFP

It's a new month - and that means changes in France at the shops, at home, and online (plus more). Here's how you'll be affected.

Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
Features
Gay Pride: Here are ten things you didn't know about 'gay Paris'
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Society
Paris Pride parade cut in half and the gay community is angry
Culture
What's on in France: Eleven great things to do in July
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Paris to honour Ireland's two sets of 'wonderful' fans
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
Politics
When France 'ignored' the result of an EU referendum
New app aims to rid Paris pavements of dog poo
Society
No more plastic bags! See what changes in France from July 2016
National
Mixed reaction from the French as UK votes for Brexit
National
How Brexit could now scupper that dream move to France
Brexit limbo: What happens next for Brits in France?
Gallery
Ten reasons why you should think about becoming French
Analysis & Opinion
Brexit: Life for Brits in France 'will get more complicated'
Culture
20 English words that 'should be banished' from French
National
Best Briehaviour: A guide to French cheese etiquette
Features
And the best city in France for expats to live in is...?
Society
Forget bikes, Paris is set to roll out scooter rentals
National
'We fear for our safety': French police feel the strain
Lifestyle
Why Rennes (and not Paris) is the best city in France for expats to live
National
Why are the French losing appetite for baguettes?
Lifestyle
Naturism booms in France as young eager to ditch clothes
Lifestyle
Is working life better in London or Paris?
National
Dear Americans: Please come to Paris
National
It's official (kind of): French work fewest hours in EU
2,759
jobs available