31 French senators called for full cannabis reform this week. Could the conversation here help tip the balance for European reform?
On Monday, thirty-one French senators published an open letter in Le Monde, calling for full and final cannabis legalization. The move comes in a year that France (finally) began its first medical cannabis trial, and further at a time when the German government is signaling, actively, that it needs justification as well as regional allies to support a sidestepping the 1961 Narcotics Convention.
The language of the letter is refreshingly direct for politicians, particularly in Europe right now. Specifically, they wrote that “the legalization of cannabis will give the means to act more effectively to better protect our fellow citizens.”
The coalition specifically rejects just decriminalization, describing this half measure as a cynical political play that will not allow the country’s lawmakers and regulators to effectively protect French citizens. As such, it is one of the most refreshingly honest commitments to date on the issue anywhere in Europe.
However, this is also a clear throwing down of a political gauntlet far beyond just the weed.
It is also a direct and not exactly unexpected challenge to the country’s President, Emmanuel Macron, who has played the issue of cannabis reform of any kind extremely cynically ever since attaining office. While he previously said that recreational reform would not be implemented while he is president, his loss of a majority in parliament this summer may change the tenor of the debate here – and – apparently – potentially rather quickly.
This development also bodes well for a climate both domestically and regionally that is beginning to shake off the “populist” if not right-wing challenge from certain quarters that not only uniformly rejects cannabis reform, but also European unity.
Beyond this, France has the distinction of having the largest hemp agricultural sector in the region. There is a reason that the KanaVape case, which is ultimately responsible for removing the narcotic designation of CBD at a European level, happened here. That said, it is also (well behind) other countries on the medical discussion, including at this point, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Malta, Italy and even Poland. Not to mention Germany.
Joining The European Pro Reform Cannabis Club
It is very likely that France, along with other countries in Europe, will join the working group also established last month between Germany, Malta, and Luxembourg.
While breaking (or at least sidestepping) international treaties is generally not done here, cannabis reform is such a pressing issue right now – from both a medical as well as economic perspective that this may be the boost that is needed to take the reform to the next level.
The Importance of Regional Cooperation and Homogenization of Regulation
France is an important domino in the debate regionally. That the slap at Macron politically is coming from his left flank also shows how tenuous the status quo is right now when it comes to cannabis reform, generally.
The reality is that there is no excuse for staking a political course in the prohibitionist camp – from supporting an entire industry (jobs, taxes, and healthcare and less government spending on interdiction of the overbearing and inappropriate kind). Beyond this, France, of all the countries in the EU, also has a recognized serious racial disparity in arrests and sentencing of the cannabis variety.
Let Them Eat Space Cake?
The fact that a group of senators is calling for reform does not mean it is in the bag – by a long shot. However, it is the kind of compromise that Macron is likely to consider making just because he is beginning to box himself in if he continues to oppose forward movement.
The fact that the leading national political figures calling for reform have already rejected just decrim is a sign that his opposition is well aware of the same.
The good news? France may not be on the bleeding edge of this revolution, but it is clearly taking an important place in it. Faisons la fête indeed.