France has an interesting relationship with cannabis. On the one hand, it has some of the highest rates of use among all European nations. But on the other hand, it has some of the EU’s harshest anti-cannabis laws. This tension begs the question: Is France relaxing laws against marijuana use? Or at least moving in that direction? According to new reports, the answer might be yes.
Changes Are Coming
Earlier today, the French government announced some potentially big changes to its cannabis laws.
Currently, people busted for smoking weed can be fined as much as 3,750 euros, which is a little more than $4,600 USD. Additionally, cannabis consumers might also get up to a full year in prison.
According to recent arrest data, there were roughly 64,000 drug-related convictions in France in 2015. Out of these convictions, 40,000 were for illegal drug use, and 3,098 ended with an actual prison sentence.
But all of this could be changing. French officials announced today a new plan to simplify the process of prosecuting cannabis consumers. Under the new plan, people caught smoking weed would be given a simple, on-the-spot citation. Tickets will carry a much smaller fine than those imposed by current laws.
Officials said the new fines would be between 150 and 200 euros, or roughly $180 to $250 USD.
Lawmakers in France who favor the change praised the new plan as providing a much simpler way to enforce drug laws. In particular, officials said the changes would free law enforcement officers and courts from the heavy bureaucratic burdens of processing large numbers of non-violent weed smokers.
“The fixed fine of 150-200 euros that I propose would enable police officers in the field to stop the legal procedure there and then with the person who has been caught,” said French MP Robin Reda. Along with MP Eric Pouillat, Reda helped spearhead the effort to change France’s weed laws.
He added: “The advantage of this is that the punishment is immediate and systematic.”
Is France Moving Toward Legalization?
These changes will certainly create more relaxed marijuana laws in France. But government officials were clear that these changes do not amount to anything close to legalization—or even decriminalization.
France’s Interior Minister Gerard Collomb made this explicitly clear, telling French media: “There will be no decriminalization for cannabis use.”
Collomb’s statement echoes the attitude of Bruno Le Maire, the country’s Finance Minister.
“Cannabis must not be legalized,” Le Maire said recently. “On the other hand, we must take a good hard look at where we have gone wrong. We have the harshest laws in Europe, yet the highest consumption rates.”
Final Hit: Is France Relaxing Laws Against Marijuana Use?
Current stats reveal high rates of cannabis consumption in France. Roughly 17 million people report having tried weed, while 1.4 million said they consume cannabis regularly. Of those regular users, 700,000 said they consumer weed every day. And these numbers are on the rise. So is France relaxing laws against marijuana use? Or planning to, at least?
By loosening some aspects of its cannabis laws, France is moving a little bit closer to other European countries with relaxed approaches to marijuana. Countries like The Netherlands, Germany, and Italy have so far led the charge in the EU toward decriminalization and legalization.