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French President to Invest Heavily in Pot Arrests

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#1 notsofasteddie


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Posted 18 May 2012 - 04:16 AM

France's New President to Invest Heavily in Marijuana Arrests

by David Borden,
May 17, 2012

France's new president, François Hollande, has vowed to continue France's expensive addiction to repressive drug policies. Tom Blickman reports for the Transnational Institute:

Hollande's choice as Minister of the Interior, Manuel Valls, is a declared opponent to any reform on cannabis. During the election campaign, Hollande already opposed the proposal to convert the criminal offence of cannabis use into misdemeanour, put forward by his security adviser and mayor of Dijon, François Rebsamen. Hollande did not want to "give any signal foregoing a deterrent against the use of cannabis."

Hollande's comment begs the question, "what deterrent?" The president has presumably heard of something called "data." What do available data suggest about France's current marijuana policy?

The data suggest it is a failure. According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), France's adults (age 15-64) in their most recent national survey had a 4.8% past-month cannabis use prevalence, compared with 3.3% under the Dutch "coffee shop" tolerance system and 2.4% under Portugal's far reaching decriminalization. Young adults in France (15-34) reported 9.8% past-month prevalence, compared with 5.6% and 4.5% in the Netherlands and Portugal. Among youth aged 15-24, France boasts a 12.7% past-month cannabis use rate, vs. 5.3% and 4.1% in the Netherlands and Portugal. These numbers go back to 2005 and 2007, but things are similar enough today to make the point. As the World Health Organization concluded in a 2008 global study, harsh drug laws do not correlate simply with drug use rates.

Hollande's opposition to drug policy reform comes at a time of deep economic crisis, with Hollande personally under significant pressure to scale back his opposition to the unpopular austerity measures he campaigned against, in order to be able to work with countries like Germany to save the Eurozone. But marijuana enforcement, while providing some jobs for French police officers, mostly forces more austerity on the rest of the country. According to Blickman, the unsuccessful candidate for Hollande's interior minister pick, François Rebsamen, pointed out, "There are 142,000 cannabis procedures per year, corresponding to hundreds of thousands of hours of work for the police producing only 24,000 prosecutions." Paris University economist Pierre Kopp has found that "The state could save about €300 million on spending arising out of [marijuana] arrests, or perhaps even more if you include the cost of custody, the running of courts and the enforcement of sentences. The state would also receive duty worth about €1 billion."

Hollande's sorry start on the issue provides a useful reminder that reformers need to exert pressure on politicians of all stripes to hold them to account. It's generally believed that left-leaning politicos are better on issues like drug policy than their opponents, and that's true more often than not. Factions within Hollande's Socialist Party have even done some work advocating liberalized approaches to marijuana and other drugs. Nevertheless, drugs and crime are often the "throwaway" issues of choice for leftist politicians looking for ways to woo some right-leaning voters their way, especially prominent politicians. It's important to note that Hollande has not just rejected a Netherlands-style coffee shop system, nor even just decriminalization for users. Hollande has even opposed changing marijuana possession to a misdemeanor. That is a fairly extremely position, in principle, current policies notwithstanding.

So instead of siding with science and data and common sense, nor even with needed budget relief for his countrymen, France's new president has instead picked the meanest and stupidest marijuana policy he realistically could have. He should be called out for it.


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#2 notsofasteddie


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Posted 07 June 2012 - 06:20 PM

Marijuana Discord on the French Left

Phillip Smith,
June 07, 2012

Just days before the first round of French parliamentary elections, the Socialists and their probable junior partner in a new governing coalition, the Greens, are at odds over marijuana policy. While the spat is unlikely to undo the electoral pact between the two parties, it has pushed pot into the election campaign.

Newly-elected Socialist President Francoise Hollande appointed Green Party head Cecile Duflot Minister of Housing—one of two Greens in the interim cabinet. This week, Duflot unleashed the controversy by saying she backed marijuana legalization.

That left Hollande's team with the task of reiterating the Socialists' opposition to such a move. During a Wednesday night television interview Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault tried to put the matter to bed. When asked if Hollande supported legalization, Ayrault said that Hollande had opposed it during the campaign.

"The answer is very clear, and it's no," he told TF1.

If, as expected, the left wins the parliamentary election, Duflot would have to quit as head of the Greens and leave her legalization position behind in order to stay in the cabinet. She will do that, Ayrault said.

"Madame Duflot will do as she promised. From June 23, she will be a minister only, serving solely her mission as a member of the government," he said.

But even if Duflot backs away from legalization, there is little sign the rest of the Greens will.

Daniel Cohn-Bendit, known as "Danny the Red" for his role in the 1968 Paris student uprising, a Green Party veteran, said Thursday he hoped the party would press for a legalization bill in the National Assembly.

"It's time to ditch the hypocrisy and double-speak," he told RMC radio. "Today's repression simply plays into the hands of drug traffickers."

Polls this week show the Socialists poised on the verge of winning a parliamentary victory outright, but they will probably need the support of smaller parties on the left, most notably the Greens, but also the Left Front to achieve any sort of parliamentary comfort zone. The Assembly has 577 seats, while polls show the Socialists could take as many as 291, leaving them a razor-thin majority. Support from the Greens and the Left Front could add another 20 or so seats to what would then be a governing coalition led by the Socialists.


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#3 topcat1666


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Posted 15 June 2012 - 07:43 AM

France would be so cool for a vacation spot if weed was legal there.

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