French officials have announced a plan to discontinue prison sentences for cannabis consumers by the year’s end, according to a Euronews report.
The change was a campaign promise of France’s newly elected liberal centrist President Emmanuel Macron and is a meaningful step toward cannabis reform for the country. However, according to government spokesperson Christophe Castaner, the plan stops short of fully decriminalizing the plant.
According to Castaner, it takes a police officer an average of six hours to carry out a single drug arrest, which can then cost magistrates a similar amount of time in carrying out the state’s punishment.
“Is the system effective? No,” Castaner said. “What is important today is to be efficient and above all to free up time for our police so they can focus more on essential matters.”
Under current French law, individuals caught using cannabis can face up to a year in jail and fines of up to €3,750.
The new law promises to end prison sentences for cannabis use. Instead — according to statements Macron made on the campaign trail — cannabis users who are caught by police may be ticketed up to a maximum of €100.
“It is a good idea that takes into account reality,” said Patrice Ribeiro, member of France’s police officers’ union. “Most police officers who stop consumers tell them to throw the joint away and then let them go.”
France is one of only six countries in the European Union that still considers cannabis use to be a crime — the majority of EU member countries have either decriminalized possession or, at the very least, have decriminalized the use of cannabis (though possession remains a crime).