The EMCDDA estimates that in Europe, 8% of 25-64 year olds, or 22,5 million people, used cannabis in 2022
While a new European report recommends better communication on the risks associated with cannabis consumption, France is betting on a prohibition policy whose effectiveness remains to be proven. Cannabis remains the most widely used illicit drug in the EU, according to the latest report from the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), published on Friday 16 June.
THEEMCDDA estimates that in Europe, 8% of 25-64 year olds, or 22,5 million people, used cannabis in 2022. In addition, the availability of cannabis seems to be increasing, the quantities of resin and herb seized in the EU in 2021 having reached their highest level for ten years.
Le investigation report emphasizes the need for effective risk communication strategies to inform consumers "of the adverse health effects associated with new substances, drug interactions and products high in active ingredients".
However, France is instead relying on a penalty-based approach through strict legislation, where consumers risk not only a fine, but also a prison sentence.
According to Clément Rossignol-Puech, mayor of Bègles, in Gironde, the government devotes most of its budget to the fight against drug trafficking instead of communicating on the risks to the health of consumers.
France has the second highest rate of cannabis use in Europe: 45% of French people aged 15 to 64 have used cannabis at least once in their life, according to a report by the French Observatory for Drugs and drug addiction (OFDT) published in September 2021.
This proportion is higher than in other European countries, such as Spain or Denmark, where it is below 40%. Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, where cannabis is available over the counter, the figure is 30%.
European countries on the road to legalization
Within the EU, a wind of change seems to have been blowing for several years on public policies on cannabis.
Drugs have been decriminalized in Portugal since 2001, and “cannabis use in Portugal is three times lower than in France,” Caroline Janvier, Renaissance MP for the Loiret region, told EURACTIV.
Malta is also often cited as an example, having fully legalized cannabis use for anyone aged 18 or over since 2021.
More recently, Germany announced its intention to pave the way for the full legalization of cannabis as early as 2024. According to German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, the future law "will ensure better protection for children and young people, but also better health protection.
But each European country has its own policy on cannabis, with the EU not competent in the matter, MEP David Cormand (Greens/EFA) reminded EURACTIV.
A European Parliament resolution adopted in 2019 calls for European rules on therapeutic and recreational cannabis, but the resolution is non-binding and only expresses a point of view.
“Legal rules would make it possible to control points of sale and limit recourse to the black market. They would also help to prevent substance abuse and addiction among minors and vulnerable groups,” the resolution reads.
"This is a public health issue, it is difficult to treat cannabis addiction and addictive behaviors if its use is illegal," Cormand noted. In Europe, 97 users were treated for problems related to cannabis consumption in 000.
“Drug addicts are considered criminals before being sick,” declared French deputy Janvier.
In France, cannabis legislation does not seem to be moving in this direction.
Valérie Saintoyant, delegate of the Interministerial Mission for the Fight against Drugs and Addictive Behavior (Mildeca), declared in January that the legalization of cannabis in Europe was far from being a “success”.
However, several officials have argued against the cumbersome nature of the current approach.
“Public policy on cannabis in France is ineffective,” Mr Janvier, who is the rapporteur for the fact-finding mission on the regulation and impact of the different uses of cannabis, told EURACTIV.
“We need to move towards controlled legalization, where the state controls the manufacturing and processing of the product, as well as the THC content,” she told EURACTIV France.
The same goes for Mr. Rossignol-Puech, who would like to experiment with the legalization of cannabis across his city.
» People need to know what they are consuming. When consumption is controlled, it is better managed and decreases,” the mayor said in an interview with EURACTIV France.
Mr Rossignol-Puech said he has to deal with families who don't know how to deal with their children who use cannabis at a very early age, often as early as middle school.
Although cannabis poses an increased risk for those under 25, because the brain is not yet fully developed, "we need messages aimed at young people, like we do with tobacco", he said. insisted.