Is France about to decriminalize cannabis?

  • France has announced it will decriminalize possession of cannabis
  • The new measure is to be rolled out by September this year
  • There will be stricter measures for those selling the drug
  • 550,000 people in France between the ages of 15-64 use cannabis every day

The French government’s newly appointed Interior Minister, Gérard Collomb, has announced that the France is aiming to decriminalize the possession of cannabis by September.

Macron is aiming to do what most politicians find impossible: putting words into action.

The new measures would mean that someone found with cannabis will avoid prosecution or jail time, instead being issued a ticket and a €100 fine.

Currently, French law specifies three classifications of offences:

  1. Serious crimes referred to as “crimes”,
  2. Less serious crimes called “délits”,
  3. Non-criminal offences referred to as “contraventions”.

According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, the previous French Government held some of the strictest penalties for cannabis in Europe. Those caught with the medicinal herb faced either up to 10 years in prison or an astronomical fine which could rise up to €7.5million (£6.5m).

Under French law, possession of illegal drugs is classified as the most serious criminal offence, and the law does not distinguish between possession for personal use or for trafficking. In some rare cases, possession was tried as a trafficking offence.

However, in practice, the prosecutor often based their judgement on the quantity of the drug seized and the elements of the act (i.e. intent to supply). So, realistically, those caught with cannabis were likely to face a less severe punishment of one year in prison and a fine of €3,000.

These new measures would see cannabis drop down into the third, “contravention,” section of classification, which cannot be punished with criminalisation or incarceration.

The newly elected President of France, Emmanuel Macron, focused on the decriminalisation of cannabis during his Presidential election. Having won the election, Macron is aiming to do what most politicians find impossible: putting words into action.

These new measures will have a positive impact on a large section of the French population; 1.5% (or around 500,000 people) are claimed to use the drug on a daily basis according to Terra Nova.

To combat the issue of drug peddling in France’s poorest communities, Collomb has stated that those who have been convicted of selling drugs will be temporarily banned from returning to their local area.

The aim is to reduce drug trafficking as well as reducing the chance of convicted individuals from engaging in gang related violence, such as retaliatory violence or intimidating behaviour. He also implied that stricter measures on drug trafficking can reduce terrorism, but this is not surprising given the current climate after Monday’s tragic events in Manchester.

Do you think this is a good step forward for France or is it not enough?

Cannabis use is prevalent in France, with around 550,000 people – or 1.5 per cent of the population aged 15-64 – using the drug every day, left-wing French think tank Terra Nova claims.

approximately 550,000 people in France between the ages of 15-64 use cannabis every day.