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What Impact Will the French Elections Have on Cannabis Reform? |

For Americans, European—especially French—politics are generally a bit strange. However, it is possible to reverse the situation.

France is one of Europe’s most powerful and influential nations. On April 24, it will go to the polls to elect a president. Whoever wins, will undoubtedly have an impact both in France and the EU on cannabis reform. However, given the candidates’ track record on the issue so far, whoever wins will not take bold steps forward on the issue. 

It will likely be an extension of the status-quo at best. It could even lead to a new Drug War.

Two of his rivals are Emmanuel Macron, a former banker turned political centreist who is currently in office and has been playing it safe since he won the 2017 election. Marine Le Pen (a female Donald Trump) was also elected to be the National President for the far-right National Front from 2011-2021.

In the French election for President, the pair went head to head and were elected the leaders of France’s most popular political parties.

What will happen to the situation after the second round, when the country still has some of Europe’s most severe laws on cannabis, and is now entering its second year of national medical trials?

Macron and Cannabis

Macron, the son of a psychiatrist and a professor in neurology, has been absent in France’s discussion about cannabis reform. This is ironic, but not surprising. However, more telling is his distinguished career at the nosebleed level of French politics ever since he entered as Deputy Secretary-General of the Elysée, a senior role on then-President Francois Hollande’s staff. 

He generally sits on the cutting edge of “done and dusted” when it comes to cannabis reform—and that has shown up in the slow pace of change he has advocated so far, starting with the implementation of the national medical trial which kicked off in 2021 (delayed for a full year, in part thanks to political intransigence as much as COVID).

However, he has specifically forbidd the legalization of recreational cannabis use while in office.

Marine Le Pen and Cannabis

Le Pen, like most right-wingers is against legalization of marijuana. According to her, this route is “obviously not the solution.” She has also said things like “those who believe that by legalizing cannabis, dealers will become melon producers… are at best naive, at worst worrying.” She obviously does not understand the business, nor has she made any attempt to. Her view is that legalization, just like immigration, can be dangerous for the French identity and soul.

You can expect another Drug War, if she is elected. This is something she’s already called for.

France is so Important for European Cannabis Reform

France has a fascinating position in the legalization debate. Although France is the biggest producer of hemp in Europe, it seems to be very late when it comes down to accepting medical cannabis. This is despite the fact that cannabis is one of the most popular “illegal drugs” in the country—and has been for a long time. Indeed, during Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798, French troops resorted to the use of hash because alcohol was not widely available, and ignored the national ban implemented in October 1800.

In the middle of the 1800s, hash was a very popular drug among intellectuals and cafeteria workers. It has not been out of fashion since 1970, when it was criminalized. In 1953, the country banned cannabis use for medical reasons. 

Late 2018, an international poll revealed that nine of ten French were in favour of legalizing medical marijuana, and 51% support recreational reform.

French Cannabis: What’s Most Likely To Happen

It is difficult to know the outcome, but the most recent data shows that Macron will win the second term. This would be by a wide margin. Le Pen’s strident background, anti-EU record, as well as the revelation that she is being accused of embezzlement of about $700,000 by the EU anti-fraud office, is not helping matters.

As expected Macron will win a second term. However, we don’t think he (or France!) will play a major role in Europe’s legalization debate. At the very least, it won’t be without positive action from national leaders. This is an awful situation. This does not, however, mean that France will abandon this case entirely.

Macron is often a politician in everything he does. Macron will not fight the increasing tide of people calling for legalization in France or elsewhere within the EU. While he might not advocate for more medical reforms, or even recreational cannabis legalizations, he is sure to follow in the footsteps of the rest.