Sunday’s Vote in France: A Lot at Stake Including the Future of Cannabis

Photo by ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images

Poor France… the country was already in a state of political exhaustion after a chaotic race between five presidential contenders. On Sunday, they will go to the polls again to choose between the two candidates left standing—a far right-winger and a centrist liberal.

France’s noble motto, “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité,” actually hangs in the balance for many reasons.

But for our purposes, let’s look at which one of the two very different candidates are going to allow the country’s 13 million people (out of 64 million) to continue to smoke pot in peace and liberté.

It’s a big deal.

Weed is by far the most popular illegal substance in France, yet their laws against it are the harshest in Europe—and the French aren’t happy about that.

More than 80 percent of the population is not down with such repressive legislation; up to 52 percent favor legalization.

According to a recent survey by the French Observatory for Drugs and Addiction, nearly half of the country’s 17-year-olds say they’ve tried pot, which usually means they’re still using it.

Diametrically opposed on many issues, the two candidates’ stances on cannabis is less so, only because one of them is still a bit murky.

Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front is not the murky one. She totally rejects any change in the current drug laws and has called cannabis legalization “a completely crazy idea.”

Le Pen is a populist who called Donald Trump’s presidential victory “an additional stone in the building of a new world.”

In 2015, she finally denounced toxic remarks made by her father and former leader of the National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, when he called the Nazi gas chambers “a detail of history.”

Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron has caused a bit of confusion over how he defines legalization and decriminalization, in part because he’s a moderate who doesn’t want to take any “extreme” positions.

Macron, whose party is called On the Move, told France’s La Provence that he’s not in favor of legalization of cannabis because of his concern for the harm that weed can cause young people’s “cognitive abilities.”

While Macron opposes legalization, he also tends to avoid using the word “decriminalization,” which would keep weed illegal, but at least put an end to fining people thousands of euros or threatening them with a year in jail for simple possession—the current punishment.

His idea is to reduce the current fine of 3,750 euros down to a more lenient 100 euros, to be paid on the spot, rather than arrest the culprit and clog up the courts and jails.

Some say, however, that Macron’s attitude may be designed to appear strict but in fact will result in the relaxation of France’s over-the-top legislation.

As it stands, police in France already tend to turn a blind eye to the not-very-concealed weed smoking that goes on there.

A walk down any street can attest to that fact.

Scents of Paris in the springtime include more than fluffy cherry blossoms and flowering daffodils.

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