The United States owes much to France—independence, a certain iconic statue, Anthony Bourdain’s attitude—and now, America is poised to deliver a favor in return. Liberating Paris during World War II was nice, but nearly no one alive remembers (nor, in the postmodern era, does anyone not in America really much care). Reciprocation relevant to 2017 is American marijuana legalization pushing the French toward doing the same.
On May 7, France will elect a new president, choosing from the top-two finishers in a preliminary election, to be held on April 23. As things stand, the decision will be between a far-left politician, and the ultra-nationalist French equivalent of Donald Trump—one of whom (guess who) is an unabashed supporter of marijuana policy reform.
(Sorry, spoiler: It’s not Marine Le Pen, the far-right buddy of Vladimir Putin.)
If not full-blown marijuana legalization, some easing of France’s marijuana laws is one of the few things most of the mainstream presidential candidates all agree upon. Four out of the five front-runners to succeed François Hollande all support some measure of marijuana reform, as the Independent recently pointed out.
As it is almost everywhere else in the world, marijuana is enormously popular in France, despite total official prohibition. Mere cannabis possession is punishable by a one-year prison term, a risk run by 47 percent of French teenagers, according to a recent survey, as well as the 1.4 million French people who regularly consume the drug.
With such obvious incongruity between what the law “demands” and the day-to-day reality, 80 percent of the French people recognize current drug policies are worthless nonsense and need an overhaul, as Forbes reported.
Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron, currently the leader in the polls, according to Reuters, wants to capitalize on this sentiment with limited decriminalization. Both he and François Fillon, a right-wing candidate, have called for police to issue either warnings or fines to cannabis users, the Independent reported.
Even that would be a break—with Europe, and, ironically, the United States. Members of both the European Union and the United Nations are signatories to a treaty declaring marijuana a dangerous and illegal narcotic drug—and one of the nations most insistent on seeing nations adhere to this treaty, at the risk of losing favored trade status, is the United States (where 65 million Americans live in states where adults 21 and over can legally consume marijuana).
Predictably more “radical” are the proposals of left-wing candidates Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Benoît Hamon. Both want total marijuana legalization.
“What’s hypocritical is to say it’s forbidden when we know that everyone smokes,” Mélenchon says on his website. The far-left Hamon goes even further, calling for total legalization and taxed sales at government-licensed marijuana shops. In many ways, Hamon is the French equivalent of Bernie Sanders—except younger (49) and with next to zero chance of winning even a spot in the May 7 runoff.
Only Marine Le Pen, leader of the Front National, which has been agitating against immigrants since the 1970s and is now—also thanks to America—closer than ever to seizing power, is dead-set against any change to France’s untenable and obsolete marijuana laws.
Indeed, her campaign manager has said that all measures must be taken to “fight against drugs and drug dealers,” as the Independent reported. (If you’re keeping score, this is also consistent with the messaging currently emanating from Washington.)
Currently, Macron and Le Pen are leading in the polls and look poised to be the two candidates on the May 7 final ballot. As Reuters reported, Macron looks likely to win—but, not to keep bringing America into it, we heard something similar about the non-reactionary candidate here as well.
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