French Election: Bad News for Drug Policy Reform

This article is a publication for the European Students for Liberty Blog, which regularly publishes liberty-related news stories. You can check out my articles on my blog profile here.

With the election in France moving closer to its decisive moments, supporters of sensible drug policy reform can only look on a dim horizon.

It’s great to see fellow Luxembourgish writers out there covering the elections in the République, but it doesn’t give them a free pass on spreading false optimism. When Forbes contributor Cecilia Rodriguez asked Marijuana Legalization In Europe: Is France Next?, I wondered what she could possibly know that I didn’t, that would make her this optimistic.

The front-runners don’t support legalisation

The current front-runners are centre-right christian-conservative François Fillon and far-right icon Marine Le Pen. Fillon not only completely rejects decriminalisation, he also believes that the jury is still out on the experiences of countries such as the Netherlands.

“For young people, the consumption of cannabis keeps increasing, but […] the argument of saying that because it increases we need to liberalise everything doesn’t satisfy me as an answer.”

Marine Le Pen also follows a “zero tolerance” drug policy. For her 2012 presidential run she already stated that she’d introduce “anything but the legalisation of drugs” and that France is losing the Drug War “because it is not actually fighting it”. In 2016, Le Pen’s tone hasn’t changed:

“The idea of legalisation is profoundly dangerous. In places where cannabis has been legalised, the results have been dramatic, with an explosion of drug consumption and public health problems.”

Of course both of these candidates are wrong about their claims. The best paper on the decriminalisation remains Glenn Greenwald’s Drug Decriminalization in Portugal: Lessons for Creating Fair and Successful Drug Policies, published by the Cato Institute in 2009, which clearly shows how decriminalising drugs has lead to fewer overdoses, fewer HIV-infections, lower teenage consumption.

drug-policy

However, as either of these two candidates are the most likely to become president, it doesn’t start out very well for sensible drug policy reform.

Hopeless voices on the Left

Those people reading Rodriguez’s article will notice that only towards the end does she actually explain the optimism behind her question mark in the title.

“Among the most vocal in the debate are Benoît Hamon from the Socialist Party, who favors legalization, and Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet from the rightist Republican Party, who opts for decriminalization.”

Before we address the point about Benoît Hamon, let it just be said that Republican Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet ran as a candidate back in November, meaning that she’s out of the process long before the Forbes article was written. By now, Kosciusko-Morizet is backing prohibition-supporting François Fillon.

Indeed Benoît Hamon expressed his views on the legalisation of marijuana in a TV debate between the socialist primary contestants. In a heated exchange with former Prime Minister Manuel Valls, Hamon accurately described the failure that is the War on Drugs, that it “creates ghettos and violence”. Valls on the other hand vows keeping the status quo on weed, which implies keeping the penalties of €3,750 and up to one full year in jail for mere possession.

But let us just be reminded that none of the left-wing candidates (which includes far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon) are anywhere close to winning the general election. The latest Ipsos Sopra Steria poll indicates that both socialist contestants of the primary vote on Sunday, Valls and Hamon, would only qualify for fifth place in the presidential vote.

None of the current pro-legalisation candidates are anywhere near of winning the presidency.


Pictures are Creative Commons which allow modification. The originals can be found here and here.

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