Farid Ghehioueche is a prominent French activist for cannabis legalization, and is on the steering committee at ENCOD, the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies.
The Local asked him to justify last week's risky move by 'cannabis clubs' throughout the country to register with authorities as non-profit organizations and why he believes cannabis should be legalized in France.
Courtesy of F. Ghehioueche
Cannabis rights activists: part of the solution, not the problem
We are aware that cannabis can impact the daily lives of its users in many different ways, and most campaigners quite simply want to improve quality of life and French society.
As well as the health benefits that cannabis use can have for those with certain illnesses, we are determined to address the violence and criminality surrounding drug-dealing in certain communities.
We want to ask ourselves how we can be good parents, and solve the problem of children dealing drugs, since many of us are responsible adults in our 40s or older.
Why ‘Cannabis clubs’ can help solve the drug issue
I was one of the founding members of the ‘cannabis club’ movement, which is based on the principle that growing your own cannabis and using it in small, private circles is the best way to undermine and prevent drug trafficking and crime.
The more people in France hear about this model, and understand it, the more it gains support as the best approach to the problem.
Last week’s registration of clubs as non-profit groups forms part of a strategy to push those in power to come up with an alternative, experimental framework for cannabis use in France.
We don’t necessarily expect the authorities to support our activities, but we hope it will show that they can at least trust us to help tackle drug-trafficking, with all its negative effects on society.
Right now, we don’t know how the authorities will respond to our ‘cannabis clubs’ strategy. We don’t know if they will be shut down.
The case of Dominique Broc could reveal a lot, however. He is the national coordinator of the Cannabis Social Clubs Français, and was arrested in February and had his cannabis plants seized.
His trial, starting on April 8th and continuing on May 2nd, could tell us a lot about how the French justice system views cannabis clubs.
Ultimately, though, what we want is to legalize ourselves, and our daily use of cannabis. We don’t want to be treated as criminals any more.
As much as the authorities must enforce the law, we want to change those laws, so that we can be treated as the simple French citizens and honest, responsible people that we are.
Problems with the law itself
France’s law on cannabis use was made in 1970, as part of an effort to eradicate heroin addiction. And back then, policy-makers mixed together drugs of all kinds, including cannabis.
For that reason, for the last four decades, French anti-drug policy has been based on regression rather than progression.
Since the early 1970s, we have witnessed a significant increase in drug use in mainstream society, especially when it comes to cannabis.
Back then there were only a few thousand daily cannabis-users in France, whereas today there are one million. Of these, 200,000 are caught up in the criminal justice system in France every year.
The cost of implementation
A huge amount of money is spent every year on these criminal procedures, and part of our goal is to prevent the French state from wasting funds, and help to channel that money in a new and positive direction.
Furthermore, penalties for cannabis use in France are among the harshest in the world. Look at the Netherlands for comparison, where the policy is far more tolerant.
There, you have people smoking cannabis in public places like cafés, parks, and on the street, without having to break the law.
In France, by contrast, we have to suffer the unbearable nuisances that come with street-dealing.
Another problem with laws in France is that drug policy is enforced more rigorously on youths, the poor, and those from racial minorities. In a way, this is a racist policy.
Drug laws here actually exacerbate the negative effects of drug trafficking, and damage efforts at harm reduction and preventing underage drug use. This is a totally counter-productive policy.
Farid Ghehioueche is on the steering committee of ENCOD, the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies, and a founder of ‘Cannabis Sans Frontières’ (Cannabis Without Borders) which ran candidates in European Parliament elections in 2009.