Is France Next? Senators Urge Macron to Support Cannabis Legalization

A group of 31 French senators have written a letter to French President Emmanuel Macron asking him to support the launch of a process that could end with legalization of cannabis at the national level in France.

In the letter, which Le Monde published, the senators from the Socialist, Ecologist and Republican group noted that 18 million people in France say they have tried marijuana and 1.5 million use it regularly.

“Whether we like it or not, this is a social issue that the public authorities must take up,” the senators wrote, later adding, “The French are ready to debate the consumption of so-called recreational cannabis.”

While directed at the French president, the letter’s succinct and forthright assessment of cannabis laws makes for interesting reading for cannabis advocates everywhere.

The Senators Don’t Favor Decriminalization

The senators not only supported taking up the debate on legalization of adult-use cannabis. They also made it clear that they do not support merely decriminalizing weed, a path that public officials in other places have followed. U.S. President Joe Biden, for example, has said he favors decriminalization but has not yet supported legalization.

The senators wrote that decriminalization is characterized by maintaining the prohibition against cannabis but reducing the penalties. Such a measure amounts to public authorities renouncing their ability to consider the issue and act, they wrote.

“It would be a question of buying social peace with a certain cynicism,” they wrote. “We reject this demagogue and populist option.”

Ending An Unjust System

In calling for a “consultation process” to consider legalization, the senators hit upon two main points. The first is that the current system that bans the use of cannabis for recreational purposes is “ineffective, inefficient and unjust.” This is similar to how people in the United States now view the War on Drugs.

The current system fails to protect young people from damage to their health caused by “uncontrolled consumption,” they wrote. It also requires substantial resources to enforce these laws.

The senators said they also advocate legalization because they believe it will minimize the health impact of cannabis, comparing the idea to past measures that legalized and controlled tobacco, alcohol and gambling. They wrote that “legalization will provide the means to act more effectively to better protect our fellow citizens and especially our young people.”

Where this leads is unknown, but the senators are far from alone. In 2019, 70 doctors, economists and other professionals wrote in support of legalized cannabis. However, for his part, Macron has said in the past that he will not support legalization during his term in office (he just began his second five-year term in office).

However, a changing political landscape offers cannabis advocates hope in France. As noted by the International Cannabis Business Conference, the letter is coming from senators on the far left. Macron needs them politically to help combat the extreme right wing after he lost a majority in Parliament this summer. Supporting cannabis legalization could, in theory, win them over.

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