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France opens up debate on cannabis legalisation

Following new recommendations, is France taking the first tentative steps towards cannabis reform?



The Economic, Social and Environmental Council (Cese) of France has proposed a ‘supervised legalisation’ of cannabis.

Advisory proposals for the legalisation of cannabis in France have been backed by some officials in the country who want to see a ‘public health approach’ to the plant.

The Economic, Social and Environmental Council (Cese) of France has proposed a ‘supervised legalisation’ of cannabis, in an effort to ‘be guided by public health objectives’ and  ‘weaken’ the illegal drug trade, according to reports from local media outlet, Le Parisien, on 24 January. 

The proposal, which was approved by all members of the Council, would see the creation of legal cannabis companies, which would be required to obtain a licence and complete mandatory training in risk prevention and reduction. 

The sale of cannabis to minors would be prohibited, as would any type of advertising or promotional distribution.

This recommendation is the result of a year-long study carried out by an interim commission, which concluded that almost half of adults in France have used cannabis at some point in their lives, compared to around 25% of adults in the European Union as a whole.

The commission also found that the current policy of fining individuals for using cannabis had been a ‘bitter failure’ and that a new approach is needed to address the issue.

The proposal has received mixed reactions from doctors, with some expressing support for the idea of ​​legalising cannabis, while others voiced their opposition. 

Amine Benyamina, head of the toxicology department at the Paul-Brousse hospital in Villejuif, supports the proposal and believes it is a pragmatic strategy that limits public health risks without encouraging more consumption. 

On the other hand, Jean-Claude Alvarez, head of the toxicology department at the Garches hospital, did not agree with the proposal and believes that more education is needed.

The Cese proposal is advisory and the government is not obliged to follow its recommendations. However, it is likely to trigger a debate within the country about the future of cannabis policy. 

The recommendation is also in line with the growing global trend towards the legalisation and decriminalisation of cannabis, with several countries and US states already legalising the substance for medicinal or recreational use.

READ MORE: France overturns ban on sale of CBD flower – what you need to know

Following the publication of the report, the Mayor of Bègles, Clément Rossignol-Puech, proposed that his city, in Gironde, could be the first territory to experiment with cannabis legalisation.

Rossignol-Puech believes that the only way to reduce consumption and avoid negative consequences is through highly supervised legalisation and hopes to lift the taboo and reopen the debate around this issue.

A psychiatrist specialising in addiction, Jean-Michel Delile, supports the mayor’s proposal, on the condition that it would be strictly regulated. Delile notes that cannabis poses a significant public health problem in France, with nearly a million daily users, and can lead to dangerous consequences for young people. 

He believes it is crucial to maintain a ban on minor and young adult consumption, as cannabis use can be particularly harmful for this age group.

Delile cites examples from North America and other countries, where legalisation has led to a reduction in consumption and the creation of effective prevention policies. He believes legalisation would allow for more transparent access to care and reduce the stigmatisation of those with substance misuse issues.

The mayor claims that France’s current and repressive approach to drug issues is not working as it has the most repressive legislation in Europe but still has a large number of users. 

He hopes that his proposal will be taken into consideration by French President Emmanuel Macron and that he can have a productive debate with ministers on the issue.

This article was originally published in two parts by Cannareporter and both are reprinted here with permission. Read the originals here and here 

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