Marijuana Continues to be an Embarrassment for the Left

“The objective of the legalization [of marijuana] is twofold. It is to reduce trafficking and violence, and to have a public health policy,” said Housing Minister Cécile Duflot on Tuesday. Questioned at the beginning of the week about the consumption of marijuana, Duflot, in favor of legalization, continued to provoke controversy for the Parti Socialiste (PS) days before the Legislative Elections.

While François Hollande has always made clear his platform against legalization, the confusion and conflicting opinions seizing the French political Left has allowed the Right to raise, once again, the issue of legalization. Henri Guaino, former special adviser of President Sarkozy, called it “a moral disaster.”

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault reassured the French, who remain largely against such liberalization, that “the resolve [on the issue] remains on the agenda.” After having repeated that the government had nothing to say on the subject, he corrected Duflot, saying that she was expressing herself not as a member of the government but as head of the Europe Ecologie Les Verts (EELV) or the Green Party. He also noted that the EELV has always defended the legalization of marihuana.

Duflot intends to step down from her position as head of the Green Party after the legislative elections. As for her own opinion, she denounced the controversy as an “oafish war” on her Twitter page.

The debate on legalization has troubled the PS for many years. In 2002, Lionel Jospin, Prime Minister and candidate for the presidential elections explained that “smoking a joint at your house was certainly less dangerous than drinking alcohol before driving, for oneself and for others.”

Martine Aubry had also proposed a proposal for legalization but she was rejected by the first secretary of the PS, at the time, François Hollande. Aside from certain iconoclasts, socialists have generally advocated against legalization. During the 2012 campaign, François Rebsamen, security adviser for Hollande, proposed to punish the consumption of marihuana with a simple fine, but he was severely contradicted by the future president.

In an article in the newspaper Liberation, Jean Christophe Cambadélis, a leader in the PS, deemed the question obsolete, saying, “if we were to open the debate for or against smoking joints now, when we don’t know if the euro will be standing in a week, the voters would scowl at us.”

The current consequences set in place are not working to prevent the widespread use of marijuana. Since 2007, the consumption of marijuana by 15-16 year olds increased by 25% according to a European survey. In 2011, 39% of French 15-16 year olds declared to have already smoked marijuana at least one time, placing France in first place for marijuana consumption in Europe. Daniel Vaillant, former Minister of the Interior under Lionel Jospin and 2011 author of a report advocating controlled legalization, proposed the creation of a “national model of marijuana inspired by that of tobacco.” His proposition was disregarded.

According to economist Christian Ben Lakhdar, the legalization of marijuana would allow the transfer of 832 million Euros into the legal economy. Many doctors also defend legalization, arguing that it would allow for better control over consumption that would be out in the open rather than secretive. Many argue that this would allow for better prevention programs against very real psychological and physical dangers.

In collaboration with Olga Symeonoglou

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