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MPs want regulated cannabis industry

France is one of the heaviest users in Europe. Campaigners want it to be treated like tobacco or alcohol

A GROUP of Socialist MPs has proposed that the state creates a “national cannabis industry”, similar to those for tobacco and alcohol. The state should regulate production, importation and distribution and ensure good quality, while also boosting prevention measures, they say.

The plan, urged by former Interior Minister Daniel Vaillant and nine others in a report to parliament, is suggested because France has some of Europe’s most repressive anti-drugs laws yet among the highest levels of cannabis use.

Mr Vaillant said he had simply “opened his eyes to a reality no one wants to see - the failure of repression and prohibition of cannabis, combined with exploding levels of consumption and of the trafficking and criminality linked to it”. This follows a report by the Global Commission on Drug Policy, by such figures as Sir Richard Branson and former UN secretary Kofi Annan, which said the “war on drugs” had failed to cut usage and had fuelled organised crime.

Sir Richard has also joined other British celebrities in petitioning David Cameron. A recent EU study listing the top four countries for drug use in different age groups shows France is second for 15-24- year-olds who have tried cannabis (42%) and third (44%) for 15-34-year-olds.

Among 15-64-year-olds, however, France did not figure, though the UK was in fourth place at 31%. In each age group France was fourth for those who used cannabis last year, after the Czech Republic, Italy and Spain. The French Observatory of Drugs and Addiction estimates about 1.2 million in France use cannabis regularly. In fact teenagers now prefer to smoke a joint to unwind as opposed to sipping a glass of wine, the watchdog said. Cannabis use among 18 to 35-year-olds has more than trebled since the early 1990s, EU figures show.

A recent Ifop survey found that 63% of people in France oppose legalisation and only 36% are in favour, however 51% of under-35s favoured it. The legalisation debate in France is mainly a left/right split, though Socialist Party leader Martine Aubry has refused to take a stand but called for an “indepth debate”.

Greens Nicolas Hulot and Eva Joly are in favour. Presidential hopeful and Poitou- Charentes Regional Council president Ségolène Royal is among those on the left opposed to it. “Drug addiction is seriously dangerous for public health,” she said in a Le Monde interview.

On the right, Interior Minister Claude Guéant said legalisation is “impossible”, National Assembly president Bernard Accoyer, a doctor, said it would be “public health madness” and Prime Minister François Fillon said he would not consider it “for a second”. In May there were protests in French cities, including 1,500 people in Paris, as part of the 10th Global Marijuana March, which calls for decriminalising consumption, regulating production and legalising use for medical purposes. “Very few people have died from cannabis, on the other hand the deaths are linked to trafficking,” said André Gattolin of the Europe Ecologie Les Verts party, who attended it. Traffickers face up to 10 years in prison or a fine of up to €7.5 million.

Simply smoking the drug is punishable by up to a year in prison or fine of up to €3,750. Tell us what you think at:

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