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France announces law to eliminate prison terms for marijuana usage

[JURIST] The government of France, under its newly elected president Emmanuel Macron [official website], announced its intention on Friday to introduce [Inquirer.Net report] a law ending prison terms for marijuana usage by the end of the year, although marijuana consumption will remain a criminal offense. Macron had promised during his campaign to reform cannabis laws upon becoming president. Under current law [PDF, in French], offenders face up to a year in jail and fines of up to €3,750 (US $4,200). In 2016 alone, 180,000 French citizens were found to be in violation of drug laws. According to government spokesperson Christophe Castaner [official website], drug violation cases consume an average six hours of police time and another six hours of judicial resources. Police unions welcomed the simplified judicial process and Patrice Ribeiro of the police officers union stated that it was "a good idea that takes reality into account." French magistrates were less enthusiastic about the reformed measures with Virginie Duval, representative of the magistrates union, stating "[the law] won't change much and it's not going to unclog the courts."

According to the French Observatory for Drug Use and Addiction [official website], in 2014, 17 million French citizens admitted to taking cannabis at some point in their lives with 700,000 admitting to use it daily. There has been a recent surge, both around the world and within the US, in the move to decriminalize, legalize, or otherwise relax regulations on the usage or consumption of marijuana. In February the lower house of the Dutch parliament approved a bill [JURIST report] that would permit the cultivation of cannabis. In January Maine's governor signed [JURIST report] a moratorium bill that delayed the legal sale of marijuana by retailers for one year, although still allowing personal possession of marijuana by those 21 and older. In April Mexico's president proposed [JURIST report] a bill relaxing laws on marijuana usage. In December 2015 Colombia's president legalized [JURIST report] medical marijuana. In June 2015 Canada's top court lifted [JURIST report] a restriction that the only acceptable form of medical marijuana was smoking the dried plant.

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