Mayor wants to grow and sell cannabis in French fields

The mayor of Laas says that growing and selling cannabis in controlled conditions will transform the local economy

A mayor of a town in the Béarn (Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Nouvelle-Aquitaine) has asked President Emmanuel Macron for permission to experiment with growing and selling cannabis in the region.

Jacques Pédéhontaa, mayor of the commune of Laas, says that the idea will “save the rural world”, and help the crisis-beset agricultural industry, and farmers who “can no longer live off their work”.

In a letter of proposals to Macron, the mayor maintains that the ability to grow and sell cannabis in Le Béarn des Gaves would also help keep rural tobacco shops and pharmacies open, with estimates suggesting that commercialising cannabis in France could create up to 30,000 jobs.

Mr Pédéhontaa - who is seeking to open a national debate on the issue - has proposed a three-year experimentation plan modelled on similar schemes in Colorado and Uruguay, with cannabis being grown in fields or in greenhouses, created by local farmers.

Initially, the test would affect around 20 farmers across 10-20 hectares. It is estimated that one hectare would be worth €35,000 per year, per farmer.

Growing sites would be organic and GMO-free, and held under strict surveillance, in cooperation with the local gendarmerie.

The crop would contain lower levels of THC - the psychoactive component of cannabis - than currently thought to be sold by illegal dealers, Mr Pédéhontaa said.

Under the proposals, the cannabis economy would be controlled by the local Pyrénées-Atlantiques government, with taxes used to fund campaigns against drug use among school-age children.

The money from the scheme would also go to fund old-age care homes, and organic farming.

Authorities envisage the plant to be used for recreational purposes, and sold to pharmacies to give out for therapeutic reasons.

Despite consumption levels of cannabis in France estimated to be among the highest in Europe, laws against the plant and drug are some of the most oppressive, including fines of up to €3,750 and a year in jail theoretically imposed on offenders (although this is rarely enforced).

In April this year (2018), justice minister Nicole Belloubet sought to allow police officers to hand out €300 on-the-spot fines for anyone caught smoking the drug.

Yet, the legal use of cannabis is growing across the country, with two “coffee shops” having recently opened in Ile-de-France selling the non-psychoactive CBD (cannabidiol) in various forms.

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