The impending presidential election in France is highly likely to bring forth positive changes for those who use cannabis. Noted as the most popular and currently illegal drug there, the harsh penalties that come along with it really aren’t fitting. Five candidates lead the way in the upcoming election. With four of them supporting voter favored changes, odds are that France’s next president is likely to relax cannabis laws.
What Is The Current Law?
At the present time, cannabis remains illegal in France. The law banning illegal drugs, passed in 1970 with the intent to combat drug addiction, seems a dated notion. Considering nearly half of the 17 year-olds surveyed by the French Observatory for Drugs and Addiction claim they’ve used it, cannabis is clearly not only popular but easily accessible. With so many youth admitting to using it, there’s no question that the number of adults who partake is even greater.
As it stands, penalties for using cannabis include a possible prison sentence of up to one year in prison and a hefty fine.
What Changes Are Being Proposed?
The opinions between the candidates differ somewhat on what the next steps should be as far as cannabis goes. One candidate, Marine La Pen, stands alone in supporting the current law. Grouping cannabis together with all other illegal drugs, her stance is that it’s dangerous and should remain illegal and supports the penalties that are in place. Suggesting that legalization and relaxed penalties are crazy, she’d like to see the current law more firmly applied. In comparison with the others running for president, this puts her in the minority.
Those in favor of relaxing the law and penalties are Emmanuel Macron and Francois Fillon. While they both represent different political parties, they’re position on the issue is implementing punishments that better fit the crime. As opposed to prison sentences, they suggest warnings be issued to offenders and in certain cases fines. Surprisingly, the one sector of the community who supports this change is the police force. For them, it will be a relief from the amount of time in court and paperwork involved in crimes regarding cannabis. At present, it’s already very common for them to overlook these offenses.
The other two candidates running for office are Jean-Luc Melenchon and Benoit Hammon. With a more liberal view than the others, they would like to see cannabis legalization.
Why Are Changes Favorable?
Changes in the law regarding cannabis have long been sought out by smaller parties. Now, it has made its way onto the agenda of those in the larger parties and is closer to becoming reality. Reasons suggested for legalization include taxing cannabis sales and being able to better control it.
For Phillip Capon of the French police union, the penalties under the current law are too harsh. In addition to this, he believes it will be in the best interest of the police force. The idea of saved time and police being able to focus on more serious issues would be a beneficial and welcome change.
As opposed to criminal punishment, Capon would like to see other steps taken to combat drug use, such as preventative methods. Tying up the police force and justice system to penalize people for something so many other are doing is only a wast of time and resources.
For the candidates who support a lessening of penalties or full on legalization, its highly probable that they’ve been influenced by the continuous changes taking place across the United States. From legalization of cannabis for medicinal use to legal recreational use, several states are making tremendous strides. It’s also recently been suggested that Canada’s headed towards legalizing its possession. This is a notable trend that the people of France (who would like to see changes in their drug laws) will want to be a part of.
Knowing this is a popular issue with the people of France it makes sense that, in light of progressive cannabis movements throughout the United States, 4 of the top-running candidates support changes to the law.
What Happens Next?
The fate of laws relating to cannabis in France hinge on the results of the nearing election. If a candidate’s elected that has progressive aspirations for changing the laws, the French would reclaim the once acceptable notion of cannabis use.
I was in the ladies room when I found the cannabis vapor pen at the bottom of my bag. This was not an ideal time for such a revelation; I was in Stockholm’s international terminal, which meant I’d unwittingly snuck it through customs twice so far.
To be fair, this particular brand’s vapor pen looks more like an e-cig than a cannabis product. (The all-caps “MENTHOL” label affixed to the tube probably didn’t hurt either.) There wasn’t much to be done upon discovery except check to see how much was left. I held it up to the light: almost empty. No problem – I’d just finish it off before my next flight in a few hours. I retreated into the nearest bathroom stall and proceeded to get quite high, bundling my scarf, coat, and sweater to create a makeshift sploof to diffuse the vapor. Needless to say, this wasn’t quite how I’d envisioned my first foray into international marijuana consumption.
When I stumbled across half-price tickets to Europe on an airline that still checks the first bag free, I couldn’t supply my payment information fast enough. Having listened to a lot of people wax poetic about the benefits of international travel, I know it’s one thing to talk about and quite another to actually take the plunge. Two weeks abroad would give me plenty of time to jump between museums and enjoy the local flavor, from what I could tell.
Julene Hoff’s view right before she found the cannabis vapor pen in her bag in Stockholm Arlanda Airport. (Photo provided by Julene Hoff.)
Before traveling, I did the requisite Googling to assure myself that I wasn’t entering any weed-free zones. The wisdom of strangers did not disappoint: my first stop, Barcelona, is fast transforming Spain into the “Holland of the South’ – and I could hardly fancy myself a 420 enthusiast without sampling the city’s cannabis club scene, right? While the city sounded marijuana-friendly in a low-key way, similar to Seattle, the finer details of procurement posed a bit of a problem – namely, my lack of Spanish identification. The clubs that would allow me to join with a foreign passport, provided I supplied a Spanish address, had a much steeper membership fee than any of the highly recommended clubs listed on the internet. Not that I had a Spanish address, but I knew it was just a wink-nudge to jot down something residential (not your hotel) that the club won’t ever send mail to. I figured I stood a good chance of figuring it out upon arrival—there had to be some app that would help me sort things out.
Once in Barça, a generic weed app confirmed my suspicions about the cost versus quality of the fare in foreigner-friendly clubs; anywhere known for the quality of their product requires Spanish identification to become a member. Finding a local sympathetic to my plight proved difficult—bro ex-pats are apparently as cool overseas as they are on their home turf. The only offers of assistance had less to do with purchasing a few grams than with me coming over to their flat; I wouldn’t trade being a conventionally attractive woman for anything in the world, but these overtures grow tiresome. Had none of these men seen Bob Saget’s cameo in Half Baked? Considering the abundance of easily acquired flower back home, I couldn’t convince myself to jump through hoops to get it while on the road. If nothing came up, I’d just hold out until getting stateside.
A week later in Prague, after my travel companion noted that I’d been “rather grumpy” in a way he could “handle exactly one more day of,” I decided to give it another go. Back to the internet, which offered up the following options: buy from the dealers in large city squares (not advised), asking your bartender (iffy, might get you kicked out or overbilled), or email one of the handful of people positing themselves as Prague pot blogs. The last option probably sounds sketchy—and it was—but that’s never kept me from following advice found online before.
Julene Hoff’s view after she finished the cannabis vapor pen in the bathroom at the Stockholm Arlanda Airport. (Photo provided by Julene Hoff.)
The first email I sent yielded the name of a bar I could get to via public transit and the confirmation that the barman would be “helpful,” though there was no mention of the price. A swift visit to Google revealed this to be one of two bars commonly suggested to travelers trying to pickup; it also revealed that the bathrooms were known to be gross, the bartender might be an asshole, and that there was probably a host of junkies just waiting to steal my purse.
One German visitor had this to say of The Club:
“Very bad drinks at very high prices. The only reason that they have so many recommendations is cause they sell Marihuana illegally. You always have to expect a raid (happened several times). If you don’t want to experience Czech jails, just don’t go there… AVOID.”
I admit the last line made me raise an eyebrow, but reviews of the only listed alternative suggested I would be purchasing from the same variety of sketchy characters in the bathroom – and that’s a line I’m just not willing to cross.
Email number two connected me with a service that delivered only to hotel rooms or apartments and required a good deal of information prior to scheduling a drop-off time. Three grams would run me 900CZK (or $37) surprisingly close to what I would pay in Denver, so this seemed the most logical option. Except the same friend that complained about my mood, a known excessive when it comes to alcohol and cocaine, was dismayed by the mentioned of a delivery drug deal. Considering I asked permission instead of begging forgiveness after, it was a tough point to argue. Besides, “I went to Prague and had my weed delivered” does not make for a particularly interesting anecdote.
Her view from the St. Charles Bridge in Prague. (Photo provided by Julene Hoff.)
Left with one (possibly) viable option, I opted to head out at 10pm on a Wednesday for the bar mentioned in that first email. It took a few convenience stores before I found one selling transit tickets. The bar was in Žižkov, a neighborhood known for parties and bars filled with locals and ex-pats alike. The most difficult part of getting there was finding a corner store selling transit tickets, honestly. I took the subway several stops and found the bar without problem — this is the era of mobile GPS, after all. (Not to mention reasonably consistent and affordable service from Project Fi.)
Following the email’s instructions, I knocked at the door and waited to be buzzed in. After taking a seat at the bar and ordering a beer, I took some time to case the joint. The first thing I noticed was an abundance of people under the age of 23 at the tables surrounding me. The second was that the fog filling the room had a 3:1 ratio of cigarette smoke to weed. The scent of herb was faint by comparison. Granted, there is a lot of tobacco being smoked in Czech Republic in general; everyone smokes at the bar, in restaurants, and abundantly throughout the streets. Czech Republic is also, much like the rest of Europe, a big fan of the spliff. (I am not.)
The barmaid was indeed friendly when I asked if she happened to know where I could buy weed, encouraging me to see and smell before purchase as she handed me a nondescript dimebag. The weed was plush with good color, red hairs and a light frosting of trichomes. I’m sure that could’ve crystallized into something even more audacious, but this weed was still a week or two shy of being appropriately cured and dried. But let’s be real: it’s not like I hauled my cookies across town to say “no” upon finding the verdant grail, even if it could’ve used another week or two to cure. I paid 500 CRK (or $20) for two grams – only slightly more than if I’d gone delivery, sans delivery fee and the tip no dispatcher ever mentions. She was also quick to sell me packs of oddly sized Prague-branded papers and filters, a swank-looking set of local goods in gold foil packaging. The bartender loaned me her grinder and I set about rolling myself a proper Yank joint of the all-green variety. I’m sure you can imagine how cool I felt borrowing some guy at the bar’s lighter to light and re-light that damn damp thing.
Most conversations I overheard were in English, and I struck up several as I sat there: about drum and bass with the Eastern-block hot bartender who claimed she was 40; a Yank that took advantage of dual citizenship to move to Canada after George W. got his second term – the only one I’ve ever heard of; and two Italian guys that managed to annoy everyone by loudly asking after the weed’s quality, and the bartender when one asked “for the pot” without buying a drink first.
At this point I was pretty high on that foreign supply, hadn’t eaten in 10 hours, and was battling it out with the growing awareness of my dry eyes and smoke-hazed contacts. I became very wrapped up in dealing with this, but heard enough to know that the language barrier was not doing the Italian guys any favors. I can’t remember if they even got their weed, but I do remember being self-conscious about the awkward amount of time I spent rubbing my eyes. I wasted another hour bullshitting with the aforementioned characters before the bar closed and kicked everyone out. I made it back to the apartment by tram without incident, the micro-stash lasted the final few days, and I was pleasantly surprised by my significantly lower tolerance upon returning home. This marked a successful trip and initial foray into international pot tourism, though in the future I’ll stick to finding my hookup after landing. Store-bought pot may be more convenient, but there’s something to be said for the entertainment value of a digitally-assisted cheeba chase.
On Sunday, Israel’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation will vote whether or not to loosen up the nation’s cannabis laws. Israel’s Justice Minister, Ayelet Shaked, said during an interview yesterday with Army Radio that the new policy would prevent marijuana possession from resulting in a “criminal act.”
Should the new policy move forward, Israelis ages 21-and over possessing under 15 grams of cannabis would receive fines and no longer receive blemishes on their criminal records. People caught smoking cannabis in public would receive a heftier fine of 1,500 shekels ($388) while those caught smoking at home would be fined 300 shekels ($78).
The bill, however, does not legalize cannabis and therefore does nothing to protect Israelis who grow cannabis in their own homes. A comparable bill that would have decriminalized up to five grams of cannabis was rejected in March, but this one appears to have more momentum.
An aid of Minister Shaked’s indicated that the goal of this bill is, since so many Israelis smoke cannabis, to stop arresting people for this commonplace act. The aid stated that
“The minister is examining various possibilities to refrain from incriminating people for using soft drugs like cannabis. This includes converting criminal registration to administrative fines. Drugs are a negative thing, but the incrimination of people using soft drugs should be examined.”
Considering Israel is the European hub for medical marijuana with 21,000 registered patients, this bill makes a lot of sense. Moreover, the nation aims to become the European and perhaps worldwide cannabis hub.
Decriminalizing possession would pave the way for that hub to become a reality.
Macedonia has become the latest nation to legalize medical marijuana, with the first medicines becoming available by the end of May.
Health Minister Nikola Todorov has stated that the program will serve those who are, “suffering from serious illnesses, such as malignant diseases, multiple sclerosis, HIV and childhood epilepsy.”
Polling has shown that Macedonians support medical marijuana, with 70 in favor of using cannabis for medicinal purposes. In contrast, only 34 percent were in favor of legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes.
Since Macedonia took a legislative approach to legalizing medical marijuana, the ministry held a public debate back in November so citizens could voice their concerns. Once cancer patient described his experience of using black market cannabis to treat his lymphoma.
“I had a lymphoma cancer. I was using the [cannabis] oil and I got cured and I know several other examples like mine… The cause for unsuccessful treatments lies in the low quality of marijuana being sold on the black market, which is normal when medical marijuana is illegal,”
said Filip, a man from Skopje.
Marija Darkovska Serafimova, the head of the State Pharmacological Bureau which regulates medications throughout the country, admitted that “there is some research that indicates that the use of cannabis products helps,” but did not seem to think the data was conclusive. However, she did recognize the importance of regulated medical cannabis.
“Legalization would allow patients to get cannabis with a verified and standardized quality,”
Macedonia is now the 14th country in the European Union to legalize medical marijuana.
A modern form of immigrants, labelled “Ex-Pots”, are leaving Europe for greener pastures.
European families with epileptic children in need of cannabidiol (CBD) oil are packing their lives up and migrating west to Colorado to obtain legal, medical marijuana treatments. One of the families featured in the fascinating article by The Guardian comes from Ireland and the other comes from Spain.
While marijuana can be obtained in both of those nations (Spain has a plethora of cannabis clubs), the access to high-grade CBD oil overseas is far more restrained than it is in America’s cannabis capital of Colorado. These children have such severe forms of epilepsy that they can have more than 20 seizures a day.
Out of time and out of options, young patients Tristane Forde of Ireland and the Pena twins from Spain have permanently relocated to Colorado. Forde, a tw0-year-old with Dravet Syndrome, has gone from experiencing seizures multiple times a day to seizure free basically instantaneously upon his arrival.
Forde’s family traveled all the way from Dunmanway, Ireland to Aurora Colorado. That 4,000 mile trip sounds very much worth it when you hear his mother say that,
“For the first time, it looked like there was a sparkle in his eyes. It sounds corny, but he just looked so much brighter.”
Getting the best medicinal marijuana on the planet from qualified doctors clearly can perform miracles. That miracle was also not lost on the Pena twins, whose father Javier relocated them from Spain to Colorado Springs (an hour south of Denver).
After seeing videos about the CBD-heavy strain Charlotte’s Web and its effects on epilepsy, Pena made the move thinking that
“I thought that this is the possibility for us to get a better life for them. Why not try? We didn’t think we could find any solution.”
While it’s difficult to transplant your family–Pena got a job transfer–it’s become a common practice. An estimate from Realm of Caring puts the amount of “Ex-Pots” at approximately 400 families. Those families come from all over the glob, including England, Iran and Australia.
That means that at least two continents’ are sending medical marijuana patients overseas. The only drawback? When these families’ visas eventually dry out, they may be forced to go home and leave the medical marijuana behind.
Should that day come, hopefully there will be one of two solutions. The more obvious solution is that the world’s moral obligation allows these visas to extend.
The more pragmatic and long-term solution is that their nations and federal laws in America finally allow families like these to import the best CBD oil on the planet. When there’s finally a solution to a disease that’s been ripping families apart for decades, it’d be a crime to keep that solution away from them.