French mayor calls for city experiment with legalised cannabis

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French mayor calls for city experiment with legalised cannabis
A "Fedora 17" type hemp plant, low in THC, grows in Berlin's Hemp Museum on February 23, 2024. (Photo by John MACDOUGALL / AFP)

Following the recent legalisation of recreational cannabis in Germany, the mayor of the eastern French city of Strasbourg, which borders Germany, has called for a 'pragmatic localised' experiment.


After Germany became the largest EU country to legalise recreational cannabis on Monday, across the border in France, the mayor of Strasbourg, Jeanne Barseghian, has proposed a "local experiment" with cannabis legalisation.

For Barseghaian, Strasbourg's proximity to Germany makes doing a controlled experiment simply realistic. 

"There are thousands of people who pass through on both sides of the Rhine every day. There are also 3,000 French people who live in Kehl, the neighbouring German city," she told Franceinfo on Tuesday.

"My pragmatic proposal is to be able to carry out a local experiment in the city of Strasbourg, which borders Germany, to enable all or some of the measures that apply in Germany to be applied here", she said, noting that the German law is already quite strict.

READ MORE: Drug laws: France's complicated relationship with cannabis

"It’s a real social debate and it’s quite strange when you live in a common area to have two such diametrically opposed regulations apply,” Barseghaian concluded.

How will it work in Germany?

Adults over 18 will be allowed to carry 25 grams of dried cannabis and cultivate up to three marijuana plants at home.

The changes leave Germany with some of the most liberal cannabis laws in Europe, alongside Malta and Luxembourg, which legalised recreational use in 2021 and 2023, respectively. The Netherlands, known for its permissive attitude to the drug, has in recent years taken a stricter approach to counter cannabis tourism.


READ ALSO How Germany's new cannabis laws work

How could it work in Strasbourg?

The experiment would first need support from the French government - Barseghian noted that it would not be possible for her to implement an experiment with recreational cannabis at a local level without national support.

"I would like to initiate reflection within the French state and the regional health agency," she told Franceinfo, adding that the goal would be to focus on harm reduction.

In order to put it into action, Barseghian would rely on a new cooperation and integration treaty, which was signed between France and Germany in 2019 and allows for joint experiments, particularly on topics related to public health.

Her proposal is likely to meet stiff opposition from some politicians at a national level, however, with Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin known as a hardliner who is opposed to any relaxation of drug laws.


What is the French approach to recreational cannabis?

France has some of the strictest cannabis laws in Europe, but high levels of cannabis consumption - with almost half of adults (46 percent) having already used it, according to French public health authorities

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 in France.

In June, French President Emmanuel Macron announced 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. 

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. 

Nevertheless - in recent weeks, the French government has taken aim at drug trafficking, which includes black market cannabis sales.

Macron in mid-March announced that law enforcement in the southern port city of Marseille were "[launching] an unprecedented operation to put a stop to drug trafficking and ensure republican order."

The police prefecture for the city later seized 8.7 kg of cannabis, alongside €385,000 in cash and 339 grams of cocaine.

Macron called drug trafficking a "growing scourge" and told residents in the city's northern district of La Castellane, one of the worst hit areas, that the operation will "try to destroy the networks and the traffickers".


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