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France to introduce on-the-spot payment for cannabis fines

The Local France
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France to introduce on-the-spot payment for cannabis fines
Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP

As its neighbour debates legalising recreational cannabis, France will allow on-the-spot cash or card payments of fines for consumption of the drug, president Emmanuel Macron has announced.

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Macron announced on Monday a change in the payment process for fines for consumption of cannabis, making it possible for people ticketed by police to pay the officer on the spot - either in cash or by card - as is already the case with certain traffic offences. 

He said: "I have asked the Interior Minister to prepare a decree by the end of the summer, so that fines can be paid immediately, by bank card or in cash" adding that at present just 35 percent of fines issued for this offence are actually paid.

Under the new system, anyone issued with a fine will still be able to opt for the current practice - which is to give their details and receive the fine in the post, with the option of either paying it or contesting it. People who pay the fine on the spot will not have the option to contest it at a later date.

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Being caught consuming cannabis can result in a fine of between €150 and €450. Non-payment of the fine can result in a court summons. Since 2020, 350,000 fines have been issued.

Macron's announcement referred to on-the-spot payment of fines for 'cannabis and other drugs', although at present the majority of fines issued are for cannabis use. 

The new payment system seems to indicate that there are no plans to change French law on cannabis - which is among the strictest in Europe banning possession, consumption, growing and dealing of cannabis for recreational purposes.

A trial is currently being conducted into using cannabis for medical purposes.

READ ALSO France's complicated relationship with cannabis

Despite its strict laws, cannabis consumption in France is among the highest in Europe, with an estimated 5 million annual users and 900,000 daily smokers. In 2016, 41 percent of French people aged 15 to 64 said that they had used the drug at least once – compared to the European average of 18.9 percent.

Various surveys and opinion polls have revealed that a majority of people in France are in favour of a legal and regulated sale of cannabis for recreational purposes, including half of the mayors within the Paris region

CBD shops - selling cannabis products without the active ingredient that provides the high - are legal, and common, although laws have changed repeatedly on exactly what can be sold in these. 

Meanwhile over the border in Germany, the government is preparing to legalise cannabis - allowing its sale for recreational use through a network of licenced social clubs.

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