Joie de vivre (joy of living) is a French phrase often used in English to express a cheerful enjoyment of life, an exultation of spirit. It can be a joy of conversation, eating, of anything one might do…a philosophy of life. France is the home of fashion, champagne, rosé, l’amour and more. As the fourth largest European country, it’s 65 million citizens savor long luncheons, 6 weeks vacations, homemade bread and any opportunity to chill.
So where does France, the culture icon of things cool, stand on marijuana? The French are the most consumers of cannabis in Europe. Yet, it remains illegal like most of their neighbors, although there are some signs of hope in Germany, Malta, and Italy. There are many things at play, EU rules, taxation, the thought of change and of course, the glacial pace of some governments.
As part of the EU, countries are restrained into having a central currency, open borders and tax and crime laws that mirroring their neighbors. To move one, you must look at moving all, and the bureaucracy of the EU is a slow moving sloth.
Nearly every major milestone in the US cannabis legalization movement came as a result of voter initiative. A California measure in 1996 established the country’s first medical marijuana program, and initiatives are responsible for adult-use legalization in every state where it exists. While some European countries, such as the UK and the Netherlands, allow for referendums, the results of those votes aren’t legally binding; they’re merely advice to lawmakers.
This makes the job of European cannabis activists quite different. To get a cannabis proposition on the ballot, American activists first have to spend a lot of time and money to gather enough signatures simply to qualify the measure for the ballot. Then comes campaigning and get-out-the-vote efforts. In Europe that’s not possible, even if you could muster the signatures of 99 percent of the population, there’s still no guarantee that anything will change.
French President Emmanuel Macron wants to update policies where police would issue warnings and on-the-spot fines for cannabis use. While it appears strict, it is a relaxation of the current rarely enforced law. Officers have welcomed the proposals, saying they will cut down court time and paperwork for an offense which, in many cases, police turn a blind eye.
Photo by Flickr user rhodesj
In January 2023, the French Economic, Social and Environmental Council positioned in favor of the decriminalization of the cannabis for recreational use for adults only.
French culture embraces drinking, but not to excess. Love, but not to inclusivity, and consuming, but not to openly.