France has some of the harshest cannabis laws in Europe. It has been illegal in the country since 1970, the state doesn’t allow medicinal use, and there is no distinction in law between personal use and trafficking, as there is in some countries.
However, France has the highest reported use of cannabis in Europe. Between 2015 and 2017, according to Statista, just over 11% of the French population said they had used cannabis over the previous year, the highest of any European country. The use of cannabis in France dates back to Napoleon’s Egyptian Campaign of 1798. Due to a lack of alcohol, his troops turned to cannabis instead. Even though Napoleon banned the drug, cannabis became more and more popular.
The issue of legalizing cannabis is coming back to the fore in France. As a new survey conducted by Le Parisien, polled French mayors across Paris and found that–even in Republican quarters–50% of Paris’ leaders said they favoured the decriminalization of the drug. Only 22% were against, whilst 28% said they needed more information. Research experts told the newspaper that this was also in line with public opinion according to recent surveys.
Attitudes on cannabis in France have been softening in recent years. President Emmanuel Macron brought in ‘on the spot’ fines in 2018, where police can fine users up to €200 ($242). Although it is still not considered decriminalised and judges can deliver harsh penalties if they see fit.
It brought France more in line with other countries, particularly its neighbors, such as Germany and Italy. And reducing the need for French people to be able to head across a border to score drugs.
The mayors who are in favor of legalization of cannabis think the end result will be reduction in power of the drug lords and more power in the hands of the state.