Paris–Progress continues globally for advocates of marijuana decriminalization, as this week media outlets reported France’s Minister of the Interior Gerard Collumb had announced proposed legislation to reduce mandatory penalties for possession of marijuana for personal use.
Currently, France has some of the harshest penalties for marijuana possession with maximum sentences including up to ten years in prison and fines of up to €7.5 million. In September, marijuana possession will go from being a “high status” crime in France, and reduced to the lowest class offense, which will incur a citation and a fine of about €100.
At the same time, the French Interior Ministry announced that it would seek to also increase penalties for drug trafficking and drug dealers.
Newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron had supported marijuana reforms during his recent campaign. Out of a field of five candidates, the only candidate opposed to cannabis legislation reform was Macron’s populist National Front opponent Marie Le Pen.
French police officers and advocates, according to media reports, also supported Macron’s intention to lessen penalties for possession. Already pressed by demands including stepped-up anti-terrorism efforts, French police organization UNSA said that departments lack resources to process and prosecute simple possession offenses, and that prosecutions were ineffective at addressing trafficking crimes.
France’s new approach to changing cannabis legislation stands in stark contrast to U.S. Attorney General Jeffery Sessions’ oft-stated opposition to loosening federal laws affecting cannabis in the United States. Despite continued expansion of and investment in cannabis industry infrastructure in eight legal states where voters have approved local legislation, the U.S. Department of Justice remains unclear as to stated policy changes regarding cannabis.
U.S. News and World Report reported today that a little-known subcommittee is currently reviewing federal marijuana policy. The subcommittee is part of a crime reduction taskforce that will issue subcommittee recommendations by July 27. The subcommittee is being led by Michael Murray, counsel to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and co-chaired by assistant U.S. attorney Steve Cook and DOJ official Robyn Thiemann.
“Almost nothing about the review process is publicly known and key players in the policy debate have not been contacted,” U.S. News reporter Steve Nelson said.
With decreased penalties, France will join the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal, among European countries that have decriminalized possession of marijuana for personal use. The French Observatory for Drugs and Drug Addiction reported that seventeen million French have smoked cannabis, and the French public health agency reported that 700,000 use cannabis daily.