Reforms needed on cannabis sanctions, says report

A report by two government ministers has recommended that cannabis users be fined in a lump sum per infraction, rather than face “theoretical” prison for their habit.

23 January 2018
By Connexion journalist

The current punishment (dubbed “theoretical” by the report) for using the drug is one year in prison, and a fine of up to €3,750 - a sanction judged to be too heavy-handed and “ineffective” by government ministers Eric Poulliat of Gironde, and Robin Reda of Essonne.

In an report seen by Le Parisien newspaper, the duo alleges that despite 140,000 people being arrested on cannabis-related charges last year, just 3,098 were sent to prison, of which just 1,283 were sent to a closed jail.

Instead, most of those who are charged are given a legal warning or receive a preventative training course designed to raise awareness of the dangers of the drug, with no further support or consequences.

Prime Minister Gérard Collomb has previously estimated that the judicial time lost to cannabis-related procedures is as much as 1.2 million hours.

"The introduction of a lump-sum fine system - whatever its form - is a necessary reform,” the ministers wrote.

They suggest a fine of €150-200 per infraction, which they deem to be “reasonable” as a deterrent and prevention among potential drug users.

The subject of how to deal with cannabis use is pertinent. Currently, despite the zero-tolerance law on the issue, over 17 million French people are thought to have used cannabis, of which 1.4 million are regular users and 700,000 people smoke it everyday.

In 2015, France was found to have the highest consumption of cannabis among teenagers aged 16 or over.

Yet, even among the ministers themselves, there is disagreement about how best to administer their proposed fine system.

Poulliat would prefer people to be issued a fine ticket, which would need to be paid within 45 days, on pain of appearing in court if not paid within this time. The risk of prison would therefore not be entirely removed - and those found to have multiple offences would not receive such leniency.

Reda, on the other hand, would want fines to be issued on-the-spot, with infractions neither punished by a stay in police custody nor by a prison sentence. This would penalise drug users while easing pressure on the judicial system, Reda alleges.

The report on the different options and recommendations is set to be presented publicly to the government on Wednesday this week (January 24).

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