By / March 15, 2023

These French Mayors Want To Legalize Cannabis in Their City

What if, tomorrow, city mayors legalized cannabis? This is more or less the idea that crossed the mind of Clément Rossignol-Puech. When the ecologist mayor of the French town of Bègles learned that the Economic, Social and Environmental Council recommended that the government should legalize cannabis, the elected representative grabbed a computer and wrote a letter to the President, Emmanuel Macron.

“Mr. President,” wrote the mayor of this city of 30,000 inhabitants stuck to Bordeaux, “I am sharing with you today my proposal to make Bègles a national experimental territory for the cultivation, sale, and consumption of recreational cannabis.”

“When I pressed the ‘send’ button, I felt that I had done my duty,” said the green politician. It was the first time I’d publicly committed to cannabis legalization, even though it’s a topic I’ve known about for a long time.”

The Local Mayors Are in the Action

By proposing his town as a legalization laboratory, he wants to show that “local elected officials are in action”. The Gironde deputy envisions Bègles as “a place where cannabis could be sold in limited quantities, reserved, of course, for the Béglais, a place controlled by the state and linked to pharmacies.

If the mayor arrives at this proposal, it is because he has the impression of being faced with a “bottomless pit”, of “emptying the ocean with a spoon”, an expression often used by local elected officials. “In Bègles, there is a real problem of public order due to cannabis trafficking. There are several selling points near the tram stops. In the Terre-Neuve district, the traffic dates back to the 1960s, although there have been several urban renewal plans since then.

Clément Rossignol-Puech is not the first mayor to take a stand. Since 2014, Grenoble Mayor Eric Piolle has been repeating to anyone who will listen that cannabis must be legalized. The elected environmentalist of this city of 150,000 hammers that the mayors are “pragmatic” in the face of “the chin-wagging of Darmanin, Valls, Sarkozy, who repeat that they will eradicate drugs while nothing changes.”

“Cannamaires” Received by Olivier Véran

One might think that the mayors who ask for the legalization of cannabis in their municipality are all from the left. Sweet dreamers, idealists. But we are wrong! In September 2020, between two arrests, three right-wing mayors signed an article in the Journal du Dimanche. The mayors of Reims, Châteauroux, and Charleville-Mézières – all members of the Republicans (LR) – point to the “failure” of prohibition. They asked for authorization for the plant in France.

A few days after this tribune, these “cannamaires” (canna-mayors), as the newspapers quickly nicknamed them, went even further. They give interviews to the regional press and ask to test the legalization of cannabis in their commune.

“We can’t go from a repressive model to legalization overnight,” explains Gil Avérous, the mayor of Châteauroux, reached by phone. For me, it is necessary to have a big meeting first, like the ‘Assises du Cannabis’, where everyone exchanges their data. And in the process, we authorize voluntary territories to experiment with legalization. Then we will see how it goes after one or two years.

The one who is also the president of the association Villes de France says that he is “ready to open a file with the local agricultural sector” if the state allows territories to test legalization. But it will not make a “sling” for all this.

The media hype of these three mayors will bear fruit. They will be received by Olivier Véran for breakfast at the Ministry of Health.

Cannabis Included in Mayors “Special Plan For Creuse”

In Creuse, elected officials have been asking the state for years to carve out a special status for the department to grow “green gold”. And the hunting table counts as a sacred trophy.

Socialist Eric Corréia, head of the Greater Guéret agglomeration, has succeeded in getting the word “cannabis” into the Plan particulier pour la Creuse, a government document designed to help this fragile department recover.

On page 12, “the State undertakes to examine the modalities of implementation of the final conclusions of the Scientific Committee on therapeutic cannabis in France.” Eric Corréia translates for Newsweed this administrative jargon: “After the experimentation of therapeutic cannabis, the State will perhaps authorize the farmers of Creuse to grow cannabis to make medicine.”

To do this, the elected official (heavily) insisted that the word “cannabis” be in black and white in the document. Not an easy task. Especially when he saw that the prefect of the Creuse had “taken the proposal at his fingertips.” He thus wrote directly to the president of the Republic, so that he does not forget the “green gold” of the Creuse. And he won.

In Switzerland, 300 Inhabitants of Basel are Authorized To Consume

The local French mayors will be able to draw inspiration from the Swiss neighbor. In the city of Basel, 370 voluntary residents will have free access to cannabis, provided they are medically monitored. This model could well pave the way for legalization throughout the country. Other cities, such as Geneva and Zurich, are already showing interest.

If France wants to adopt this local model, it will require a small revolution. Drug policy belongs to the national level, so local elected officials cannot emancipate themselves from this rule,” says Renaud Colson, a lecturer in public law. Moreover, local experiments in Switzerland have the agreement of the central government.” 

“If we want to do it in France, the government would have to prepare a bill to define the contours of the experimentation: to whom does it apply, in what area, etc. But it is quite possible. We did it well for the cannabis fine that was applied only in a few cities before being generalized.”

For mayors like Robin Reda, it is not tomorrow the day that a text of this kind would arrive at the National Assembly. “It is political fiction, smiles the former president of the mission of information on cannabis. But, sometimes, the best fictions sometimes give real results!”

(Featured image by Claude Humbert (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Wikimedia Commons)

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