Europe’s cannabis laws are changing – though many would argue they are not changing fast enough. However, improvements are being made in two of the subcontinent’s largest countries, Germany and Spain, where medical cannabis was legalized last year in the first, and a long-standing culture of tolerance to cannabis use has manifested into large-scale decriminalization in the second. That’s not to mention the Netherlands, which has enjoyed global status for decades as the world’s most cannabis-friendly country.

Sandwiched between those three significant populations is the world’s fifth largest economic body – France. Despite the advanced education, seemingly liberal social views, and preponderance toward hedonism the French culture maintains, the country’s drug policies have remained staunchly prohibitionist over the decades. But perhaps that is about to change. More youthful leadership and a forcing of the hand by neighboring states may (or at least should) push the country toward more liberal cannabis policy.

Marguerite Arnold writes for the Cannabis Industry Journal:

“The most recent statistics suggest that 17 million French people have tried cannabis. 1.4 million use it regularly, about half of those on a daily basis. And here is the exciting (read: terrifying part). Users (not dealers) face up to a year in prison on the first offense, plus a fine of 3,750 euros (about $4,000).

“…It is also not like the French big wigs also do not know they are out of step. France’s boyish president, now in office for about a year, Emmanuel Macron, promised decriminalization by the end of 2017 (it didn’t happen). Now a new parliamentary report, released, fittingly on Valentine’s Day, recommends swapping out the current draconian punishments for a fixed fine of between 150-200 euros ($250) per offense. The report also specifically concludes that current legislation is not working.

“….The great irony of this of course, is what is happening as France becomes an unwilling partner in the cross-border cannabis ménage-a-trois now afoot thanks to changing medical cannabis laws elsewhere in the EU. Namely, cannabis may remain off the reform agenda to parliamentarians and out of reach to the average French patient. That said, cross-continental transport of the drug will inevitably create a situation where a significant amount of cannabis products consumed by medical users elsewhere in the EU is trucked and or trained across France while out of reach to the locals.

“Portugal and Spain are shaping up to be low-cost producers to the West. On the East, Germany, Switzerland and increasing numbers of Eastern European countries are looking for cheap product. That means there is going to be a great deal of medical grade cannabis crossing the continent by way of French territory. There is already a trickle. It is about to become a flood. What happens to reform in a country clearly caught in the middle?”

What happens indeed? My guess is that dominoes will begin to fall much like they have with state policies in the USA, once legislators begin to hear the monetary numbers and pleas of cancer patients and desperate mothers looking to save their children with epilepsy. Politicians everywhere are waiting for the population to lead on this issue, and Europe is no exception. I expect the change of laws in Germany – Europe’s largest center of economic activity – to spill over to other EU countries, much like I expect California’s adult-use regulation to clear the path for more reform in the United States.

France, are you ready to legalize cannabis?

Meet author Marguerite Arnold in person to ask your questions about France and EU cannabis policies at the next International Cannabis Business Conference on April 11-12 in Berlin, Germany! Get your tickets today!