By / January 19, 2021

French MPs want to kick the cannabis debate into action

Although France applies one of the most repressive policies in terms of cannabis, it remains the biggest consumer in Europe. Faced with such a failure and the fierce resistance of the administrations, some members of parliament want to change the lines and get politicians to re-examine the French approach, which is now out of step with that of many European countries. A citizens’ consultation has just been launched on their initiative.

With more than 130,000 participants in 72 hours, the citizen consultation on recreational cannabis launched by the National Assembly on Wednesday, January 13, got off to a flying start. While the consultations put online by Parliament collect an average of 30,000 responses, the one on cannabis is well on its way to breaking records. According to its initiators, this is a sign of the population’s appetite for debating a social issue that has long been ignored by the political class, but which is indeed present in the daily lives of the French people.

But France is not the only nation where the cannabis debate rages on. Keep up with it all by reading the latest cannabis news using our companion app.

Cannabis legalization questionnaire to better understanding and broaden debate

This consultation, open until February 28, has two objectives: to better understand how the French perceive cannabis and to find out their vision of the future of public policy on this subject. “Do you think that the current system is effective in combating trafficking”, “Compared with alcohol consumption, do you think that the risks associated with cannabis consumption are equivalent, more serious or less serious”, “Among the following proposals, which of the following would you consider to be the most favourable development with regard to cannabis”? A total of a dozen questions which are not limited to the predefined answers, but also give citizens the opportunity to develop their point of view.

“With this questionnaire, we would like to broaden the raw data usually collected by opinion polls”, explains to France 24 the deputy La République en marche (LREM) of Loiret, Caroline Janvier, thematic rapporteur in charge of recreational cannabis within the parliamentary information mission at the origin of the consultation. “And then it will perhaps also allow us to confirm our intuition on the fact that the vision of the political class on this subject is very late compared to that of the population”, she adds.

Just mentioning cannabis is still something of a taboo in some French circles

Cannabis: pronouncing this word in a political debate often provokes passionate reactions. There are those – few in number – who for several years have been calling for its decriminalization, or even legalization. And there are the vast majority of politicians who cling to the most repressive legislation in Europe.

Two recent examples perfectly illustrate the tension of successive French governments in the face of the problem. When the Conseil d’analyse économique (CAE), a body attached to Matignon, published a report in June 2019 noting the “failure of prohibition” in France and proposing the legalization of cannabis, the government reacted immediately. “I am against the legalization of cannabis,” said the then Health Minister, Agnès Buzyn. I’m fighting hard against smoking, it’s not to suddenly legalize cannabis which has the same effects as cigarettes”.

And when the new Interior Minister, Gérald Darmanin, is questioned in September 2020 on the same subject, he gets carried away: “Drugs are shit, we’re not going to legalize this shit.”

Despite the political front, France ranks number one as a cannabis consumer

But behind the politics of numbers and muscular speeches, France ranks first in Europe as a consumer country, with the highest rate of cannabis experimentation. Thus, in 2016, 41.4% of French people aged 15 to 64 had already used it at least once in their lives, while the European average was 18.9%, the CAE’s note points out.

Aware of the French failure in the fight against cannabis trafficking, a handful of deputies are trying to change people’s minds and set up the conditions for a calm debate within the information mission behind the citizen consultation on recreational cannabis. Set up in January 2020 and chaired by the deputy Les Républicains (LR) de l’Essonne, Robin Reda, this parliamentary mission has been working for a year on the regulation and impact of the various uses of cannabis in France – whether therapeutic, “well-being” or recreational cannabis.

“We cannot allow such a subject to be very present in society and not deal with it at the political level,” says Robin Reda, contacted by France 24. Unfortunately, politicians consider that there are always subjects more urgent than cannabis, all the more so because, in their imagery, it is a problem that refers to the marginalized, to drug addicts, to a certain gap with normality. Except that no one can be satisfied with the current situation when our repressive policy is not working”.

“Our first objective is to change the terms of the debate,” adds MP Caroline Janvier. The issue of cannabis is not taken seriously. There is always a bit of irony on some colleagues’ faces. However, when you see the amounts spent on the fight against cannabis trafficking – 568 million euros per year – there is nothing to smile about”.

A serious subject with multiple facets

Cannabis is indeed a serious subject, with health, safety and economic issues at stake. Too often reduced in the debates to its recreational consumption, it also offers solutions in the field of health. More than thirty countries in the world have thus authorized its therapeutic use.

In France, an experiment was allowed thanks to an amendment introduced by Olivier Véran at the end of 2019, when the current Minister of Health was still a member of Parliament. But the implementing decree giving the final green light was not published until October 2020, after many weeks during which the administration slowed down the process as much as possible.

“Legalizing therapeutic cannabis in France is a way of the cross,” deplores Robin Reda. We have seen the gap between the will of the legislator, quite unanimous, to move forward, and the blockages within the Ministries of Health and the Interior. The decree has finally been published, but I am convinced that in the operational phase, everything will be done to make it complicated and that the experiment will affect as few people as possible”.

Restrictive and slow-moving implementation of therapeutic cannabis frustrating

The slowness of the implementation of this experimentation frustrates terribly the patients, but also the cannabis producers who bet on a future change of the legislation. This one authorizes for the moment the culture of the plant, provided that it does not contain more than 0,2 % of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive molecule of the cannabis. Moreover, only the exploitation of the fiber and the seeds is authorized. On the other hand, it is forbidden to cultivate and transform the flowers of cannabis, where the cannabidiol (CBD), the other molecule of cannabis which has no narcotic effect, but a “relaxing” effect, according to the addictologist Jean-Pierre Couteron, quoted by Libération. CBD is the basis of so-called “well-being” cannabis products (food supplements, herbal teas, cosmetics, e-liquids, etc.).

“We recommend in our progress report on therapeutic cannabis the creation of a French production chain,” explains Robin Reda. This would enable France not to be dependent on foreign producers, to certify the quality of the products and for farmers to obtain an additional source of income. But the French approach as it stands is far too restrictive”.

Early investors still unable to sell what they produce

Jouany Chatoux is one of those few producers to bet on the future of French cannabis. An organic breeder and farmer in the Creuse region of France, he has decided to take the plunge in 2018, investing 40,000 euros in his production and storage facilities. He estimates that his production could lead to the creation of at least 20 to 30 jobs and a turnover of 2 to 3 million euros.

“It’s been two years now that I’ve been producing cannabis that I can’t sell,” he tells France 24. I’m still waiting for an exemption to experiment with growing flowers and prepare for the future opening of medical cannabis in France. The risk, if the government doesn’t move, is that the French industry won’t be ready the day the European Union imposes the change”.

This is exactly the problem currently facing the “well-being” cannabis sector. The Court of Justice of the European Union forced France, in a decision handed down on November 19, 2020, to authorize the marketing of CBD products. However, since production is still prohibited on French territory, stores offering this type of product have no choice but to source it from abroad.

Legalization proponents emphasize the home-grown argument, saying France will become dependent on other countries

“The longer we delay the decision to change, the more we will be dependent on other countries that took the step earlier,” says Caroline Janvier. This is the case for ‘well-being’ cannabis, but also with the experimentation on therapeutic cannabis, where we will find ourselves having to import when French players could have done so”.

“The longer we delay the decision to change, the more we will be dependent on other countries that took the step earlier,” says Caroline Janvier. This is the case for ‘well-being’ cannabis, but also with the experimentation on therapeutic cannabis, where we will find ourselves having to import when French players could have done so”.

However, the mission of providing information on the different uses of cannabis is not only guided by the possible economic opportunities. Health risks, the importance of prevention, the consequences on illegal trafficking and security issues will also be taken into account.

Survey wants to put different options on the table

“We want the different options to be put on the table. There will be recommendations. Perhaps we won’t all agree within the fact-finding mission, but in any case, many of us believe that the status quo is not acceptable,” says Robin Reda.

The fact-finding mission will report its findings in April. Emmanuel Macron has already closed the door, during his interview with the online media Brut, to the legalization of cannabis before the end of his five-year term. But the elements of the debate that will emerge from the report will be available to politicians and citizens.

“In my mind, the work we are doing will serve for the 2022 presidential election,” Caroline Janvier wants to believe. I hope that there will be a ripple effect and that each candidate will take a position on the subject. It’s time to put aside the moral argument and the caricatures.”

(Featured image by Nicholas via Pexels)

DISCLAIMER: This article was written by a third party contributor and does not reflect the opinion of, its management, staff or its associates. Please review our disclaimer for more information.

This article may include forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements generally are identified by the words “believe,” “project,” “estimate,” “become,” “plan,” “will,” and similar expressions. These forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks as well as uncertainties, including those discussed in the following cautionary statements and elsewhere in this article and on this site. Although the Company may believe that its expectations are based on reasonable assumptions, the actual results that the Company may achieve may differ materially from any forward-looking statements, which reflect the opinions of the management of the Company only as of the date hereof. Additionally, please make sure to read these important disclosures.

First published in France 24, a third-party contributor translated and adapted the article from the original. In case of discrepancy, the original will prevail.

Although we made reasonable efforts to provide accurate translations, some parts may be incorrect. assumes no responsibility for errors, omissions or ambiguities in the translations provided on this website. Any person or entity relying on translated content does so at their own risk. is not responsible for losses caused by such reliance on the accuracy or reliability of translated information. If you wish to report an error or inaccuracy in the translation, we encourage you to contact us.

Comments are closed for this post.