Last month one of France’s most influential think-tanks, the Conseil d’analyse économique (CAE), recommended not only that France legalise recreational cannabis use, but also that the government form a monopoly to control distribution.
As pressure slowly builds for reform in one of Europe’s most stringent bastions of prohibition, the CAE, which reports directly to the French Prime Minister, Édouard Philippe, called reform an ‘urgent matter’.
Professor Renaud Colson from Nantes University agrees, ‘to date most [politicians] have kept silent [about cannabis] although many are conscious of the failure of the current policy.’
The failure of prohibition is evinced by France possessing one of the largest consumer bases of recreational cannabis in Europe; over 40% of 15―64 year-olds claim to have smoked it (more than double the European average). ‘The prevalence of cannabis use has skyrocketed’ over the last half-century notes Professor Colson. ‘Police have prioritised stop and search of users leading to hundreds of thousands of arrests (mainly working-class youngsters, many of them French citizens from North Africa).’ This has led to suggestions that establishment attitudes to cannabis possess racist undertones associated with France’s former colonies.