group of leading French economists have recommended full legalisation of cannabis.
Think tank le Conseil d’analyse économique (Council of Economic Analysis, CAE) published a 12-page report stating a controlled recreational market would allow the country to “take back control” from criminal gangs.
The group, which reports to the French Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, suggests a fixed price of €9 ($10.18) per gram.
French MPs will now seek to introduce a bill to legalise the distribution and use of cannabis, which could raise as much as €2.8bn ($3.7bn) in additional annual tax receipts, according to the report.
The country, which has unusually strict anti-cannabis laws for an area where the drug is tolerated by the public, legalised the drug for medical purposes in 2014, but it set to take further steps to support medicinal research.
France has among the highest rate of cannabis testing in Europe. In 2016, 41.1 per cent of people aged 15 to 64 had already used it at least once in their life, more than double the European average of 18.9 per cent, according to the French Observatory of Drugs and Drug Addiction.
The CAE observed countries in which recreational cannabis is already legal, such as Uruguay, Canada, and certain US states.
The report’s authors Emmanuelle Auriol, professor at the École d’Économie in Toulouse, and Pierre-Yves Geoffard, professor at the École d’Économie in Paris said: “While the situation is changing very rapidly around the world when it comes to recreational cannabis legalisation, the time has come for France to choose pragmatism, and to take back control.”
A debate on the issue is scheduled, with doctors and economists due to mull “controlled legalisation” of cannabis and legalisation in the name of “pragmatism”, according to a “call” from 70 doctors and economists, published on news website L’Obs.
This said: “The system of prohibition promoted by France over the past 50 years is a failure [and] weighs greatly on public finances”. It also helps prop up organised crime, the article said. “In contrast, the decision to legalise cannabis usually leads to a drop in criminality,” the report said.
Any legal access to the drug for over 18’s could see “a rise in use among regular consumers”, it admitted, but would also see “a drop in consumption among young people”.
The letter called for a national regulator to be created to oversee the production and distribution of the drug, in order to “efficiently manage the market” and “avoid derivatives” from being sold.
The regulator would set the price, verify the quality of the product, and rule where and when it could be sold, through licences to authorised producers and specialist shops, it said.
The CAE report also recommended a fixed price of €9 per gram, with a VAT of 20 percent included.
Full legalisation could create thousands of new jobs too, the report added. Data from California and Colorado shows that around 55-114 jobs are created for every tonne of legal cannabis created. In France, this could equate to 27,500-57,000 roles.
“The creation of a cannabis industry represents a growing economic opportunity,” the report concluded.
Even though the recommendation originates from a government unit, the prospect of a complete legalisation of cannabis in France remains remote.
France’s transport minister Elisabeth Borne said on Thursday that France would not legalise recreational cannabis, but could consider authorising its medical use.
“The position of the French state is clear,” Ms Borne told LCI television. “We are against legalising cannabis for recreational use. There is an ongoing discussion about medical use.”
In recent years France has loosened its hardline stance on cannabis. Until recently, offending cannabis users received fines of €3,750 and year-long prison sentences.