Published on: 31/10/2023
CANNABIS LEGALIZATION: A COMPLEX AND TWISTING PATH WHERE FRENCH PEOPLE CLASH WITH THE GOVERNMENT
The legalization of cannabis has been an ongoing battle in many European countries. France is known for having one of the harshest political crackdowns on cannabis consumption and sales. According to data from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (Emcdda), France is among the European nations with the most severe sanctions, alongside Sweden, Finland, Hungary, Estonia, Greece, and Cyprus.
Let’s take a look at the public and political positions in France regarding marijuana consumption.
Cannabis: From Illegality Towards Legalization
As mentioned earlier, France has one of the most repressive cannabis policies in Europe, despite being one of the first countries to encounter cannabis consumption. The first experiences date back to the time of Napoleon, when soldiers stationed in Egypt, in the absence of wine, first experimented with cannabis.
However, due to its effects (different from those of CBD Weed), it did not gain a good reputation right away. In fact, the journey of cannabis has been tortuous ever since: it was abolished because it was deemed unsuitable for treating cholera and later declared illegal in 1970. This demonstrates that the path to its legalization remains challenging and distant even today.
Cannabis Legalization: French Public’s Opinion
A small step forward was taken in 2019, when the National Assembly allowed the experimentation of cannabis for therapeutic purposes, an initiative that was subsequently halted in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the same year, the Assembly allowed French people to fill out an online questionnaire about cannabis use, available from January to February 2020. Specifically, French people were asked to express their opinions on a potential change in legislation regarding recreational cannabis use towards a more permissive direction.
Medical Studies: Therapeutic Use of Cannabis in France
Starting from March 2021, approximately 3,000 patients would have received medical cannabis products to treat health problems. However, this significant step forward came with limiting conditions: only seriously ill patients who could not be treated otherwise, including those suffering from epilepsy, chronic pain, or multiple sclerosis, could receive these treatments.
According to some, cannabis could also be prescribed to patients experiencing the side effects of treatments like chemotherapy. Such a step could be considered a breakthrough that could help cannabis shed its dark reputation, even in the eyes of skeptics.
1 out of 2 French Persons Have Tried Cannabis Once in Their Lives
In 2020, the En Marche parliamentarian Caroline Janvier declared that 50% of French people had used cannabis at least once in their lives, while today, the nation counts as many as 7 million users each year (Emcdda). This implies a significant gap between public opinion and politics.
However, while politicians may want to align with the French people, the right-wing remains firmly opposed. Unable to distinguish THC from CBD, the right-wing claims that it is impossible to assert that cannabis is ‘safe.’ Moreover, the tendency to associate its use with cases of delinquency and outright violence remains.
On the other hand, more moderate politicians cannot deny the significant prevalence of cannabis use and the need to adapt to the times, perhaps through a natural legalization process, independent of the obstructionism of the French government.
CBD Flowers in France: A Step Towards the Sale of Cannabis Flowers and Leaves
On the 30th of December 2021, the Conseil d’État introduced a ban on the sale of cannabis flowers and leaves with a THC content of less than 0.3%. However, it confirmed that Cannabidiol is a substance devoid of psychoactive and addictive effects. Thus, CBD does not possess the characteristics of a narcotic substance and cannot be considered as such.
The aforementioned ban is no longer in effect as of December 29, 2022.
Latest News: HHC Lands on the List of Narcotic Substances
HHC: What Is It?
HHC is the result of a chemical synthesis of natural cannabinoids, responsible for psychoactive effects similar to those experienced after consuming THC. HHC is available in form of oil, resin, flowers, and spray, with varying concentrations of up to 99%, depending on the product and brand.
What Are the Potential Risks?
The consumption of HHC or one of its derivatives can cause discomforts such as chills, vomiting, anxiety, mental confusion, mood swings, tachycardia, chest pain, and more. Side effects can vary based on HHC concentration.
N.B. The use of products containing HHC can lead to long-term dependence and substance abuse.
Legalization in France: A Definitive ‘No’ to HHC
Since June 13th, 2023, France has officially included HHC (hexahydrocannabinol), along with HHCO (hexahydrocannabinol-O-acetate) and HHCP (hexahydrocannabiforol), in the list of narcotic substances. The new law also introduces a ban on their production, sale, and use. This decision by the government was based on research into drug toxicity that revealed the psychotropic nature of cannabinoids, similar to that of cannabis. Additionally, their chemical structure is similar to THC, the quintessential narcotic substance.
The ban on HHC sales remains in effect not only in France but also in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, and the United Kingdom.
Cannabis in France: The Court of Cassation on CBD and THC
On June 21st, 2023, the French Court of Cassation repealed the law on narcotic substances while driving. The current law imposes a penalty of up to two years in prison and a €4,500 administrative fine. The previous law also results in a deduction of six points. The Court of Cassation reiterated that driving under the influence of psychoactive substances classified as narcotics is illegal, regardless of the THC level present.
In conclusion, many are in favor of cannabis legalization in France. Many are collecting signatures day by day to raise awareness and change the current situation, not only in France but also in many European countries. Indeed, Janvier stated that “prohibitionism has, for fifty years, adopted an unattainable goal without ever having the means for it. Legalization is the best solution to implement control and protect citizens.” Legalizing cannabis could, on one hand, protect young people and, on the other, reduce crime and illegal sales.
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