How cannabis use laws will be enforced is about to undergo a big change in France. Recently, the nation announced that they would be ending all prison terms for cannabis users by the end of 2017. Currently, cannabis use is punishable by up to one year in prison and a staggering EUR 3,750 fine. While it will still remain a criminal offense, it seems that prison sentences will no longer be on the table.
It will still be a long time before France truly “decriminalizes” cannabis, but it’s clear that a monumental shift is taking place. Many hope that French President Emmanuel Macron will continue to reform current marijuana legislation in the country, and that current laws will continue to be modified. Encouraging cannabis law reform was a key component of Macron’s electoral campaign, and so far it seems that he is beginning to deliver on his promise.
France is one of half a dozen of countries belonging to the European Union that criminalizes the use of cannabis, but the tides are slowly changing. Countries such as Portugal, Estonia and Latvia have already decriminalized cannabis, and Spain has decriminalized it as well, provided it’s being used in a public place.
French government spokesperson Christophe Castaner has said that an average violation of this sort takes up to six hours of time for police officers and presiding magistrates. “What is important today is to be effective, and above all to free up time for our police so they can focus more on essential matters,” Castaner said.
While these changes in France may seem small, they are certainly a big step in a new direction. As Waking Times reports, “The French Observatory for Drug Use and Addiction reported that in 2014, 17 million French citizens said they had taken cannabis at some point in their lives. There are estimated 700,000 daily cannabis users in France.” Clearly, there are plenty of people who will be able to breathe easy knowing that their cannabis use won’t automatically land them in jail anymore.
Why should cannabis be decriminalized?
Many people believe that possession for personal use and drug use should not be crimes, mostly because the government should not be able to tell citizens what they can and cannot do with their own bodies. There are many reasons why cannabis should be at least decriminalized. Beyond the scope of personal freedom, there is also the fact that cannabis can be used as medicine, and is decidedly less harmful than most other drugs — including legal ones like alcohol and tobacco.
As Huffington Post reports, a team of drug experts from the UK even published a study on this very fact — and found that cannabis was less harmful to others, as well as the individual user, when compared to alcohol, tobacco and a host of other drugs. While other drugs like heroin and cocaine are readily accepted as “worse” than cannabis, the fact is that cigarettes and booze are worse for you too.
And to top that off, cannabis actually has a very low potential for abuse. Statistics show that cannabis dependence occurs in just 9 to 10 percent of adult marijuana users. Comparatively, a staggering 30 percent of adult tobacco users will struggle with dependence — and despite being more addictive, tobacco is still legal. The cannabis plant is also touted for its array of medicinal uses and health benefits.
To put it simply: France is making great strides by lessening the punishment for cannabis use, but there is still a long way to go with marijuana reform.