French society

France's champagne capital wants to experiment with the legal sale of cannabis

A picture taken on May 30, 2018 shows a small bag containing cannabis in a shop specialised in medical cannabis in Annoeullin, near Lille, northern France.
A picture taken on May 30, 2018 shows a small bag containing cannabis in a shop specialised in medical cannabis in Annoeullin, near Lille, northern France. AFP - PHILIPPE HUGUEN

The mayor of Reims tells RFI why he would like France's champagne capital to experiment with the legal sale of cannabis in the country. 

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Pharmacologist Arnaud Robinet, mayor of Reims since 2014, is one of the few right-wing politicians supporting the legal use of cannabis in France.

Mayor Arnaud Robinet at the Reims town hall. (February 2021)
Mayor Arnaud Robinet at the Reims town hall. (February 2021) © Arnab Béranger / Vanessa Fray

The cannabis paradox

"In France, the subject of cannabis is being dealt with in an idealogical but not in a pragmatic way", explains Robinet.

He says there is a "paradox" concerning the legislation and the reality of cannabis use in the country. 

On one hand, France is the "most repressive country in Europe when it comes to cannabis, both for the consumer and the dealer", he claims. 

At the same time, he says that France is the largest cannabis consumer in Europe, with a rapidly-growing base amid young adolescents. 

A man smokes a joint during a demonstration for the decriminalization of cannabis in France, in Paris on May 12, 2018.
A man smokes a joint during a demonstration for the decriminalization of cannabis in France, in Paris on May 12, 2018. AFP - THOMAS SAMSON

If cannabis were legal

For Arnaud Robinet, legalising cannabis would benefit France on various levels. He cites public health as the principal winner. 

"Smokers, especially adolescents, have no control over the quality of the cannabis they buy, the THC levels, the way it may have been adulterated", Robinet says.  

According to him, legalising the product would 'guarantee checks' on its quality, thus reducing health hazards for the consumer. 

Robinet also speaks of economic possibilities. 

"This could be an economic opportunity for farmers", he says. 

"There is also the sales aspect, and tobacco shops in France could become points of sale, for example."

A picture shows the front window of "Le Chanvrier Francais" CBD (cannabidiol) shop in Paris on February 2, 2021.
A picture shows the front window of "Le Chanvrier Francais" CBD (cannabidiol) shop in Paris on February 2, 2021. AFP - BERTRAND GUAY

Legalisation also entails state revenue in tax, he adds. 

Robinet is, however, careful to mention the dangers of cannabis use.

"I am a pharmacologist. I am aware of the effects of the use of cannabis on certain adolescents, especially in their personal growth".

Robinet compares the excessive use of cannabis with that of alcohol, stressing the need for campaigns to warn against addiction and the dangers of over-consumption. 

The city of Reims with its famous cathedral reflected on a building facade.
The city of Reims with its famous cathedral reflected on a building facade. © Vanessa Fray (Vanfry)

Champagne and cannabis in Reims

Arnaud Robinet would like Reims to experiment with legalising cannabis in France. 

Robinet insists, however, that Reims cannot become a destination for 'cannabis and champagne' tours. 

"The experiment will be carried out with legal sales for citizens only. There is no question of opening sales to anyone from outside, this is not a ploy to attract tourists", he says, emphasising that his primary concern is public health. 

Reims is considered as France's champagne capital. (File picture)
Reims is considered as France's champagne capital. (File picture) Getty Images

The French right going green? 

A right-wing politician, Arnaud Robinet's views on cannabis are not shared by all within his political family.

His opinions echo rival parties like the far-left France Unbowed, and more notoriously, France's rising Green Party. 

"The subject has always been taboo for the right wing,", Robinet admits. "But we now have a group of mayors as well as parliamentarians working on the legalisation of cannabis, and we'd like to bring up the subject at a national level."

Robinet wrote to Prime Minister Jean Castex to this effect last year. 

However, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, Robinet's letter is yet to receive an answer.

 

Video credits:

Sound operator - Vanessa Fray

Music - Bahbushska / Systylé from auboutdufil.com

 

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