France's champagne capital wants to experiment with the legal sale of cannabis
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.
Pharmacologist Arnaud Robinet, mayor of Reims since 2014, is one of the few right-wing politicians supporting the legal use of cannabis in France.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
Sound operator - Vanessa Fray
Music - Bahbushska / Systylé from auboutdufil.com
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