Cannabis: Economists Encourage Government to Legalise

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Economists advising Government advocate legalisation of cannabis

Economists to advise the Prime Minister issue a report Thursday 20th June 2019, advocating the legalization of cannabis. But the government does not seem ready.

The legalization of cannabis, a means of “regaining control” in the face of the “failure” of repression? This is the thesis defended by economists in charge of advising the Prime Minister, in a report published Thursday, June 20, 2019 that crawls 50 years of government policies.

This note comes from the Council of Economic Analysis (CAE), a group of economists attached to Matignon and led by Philippe Martin, known close to Emmanuel Macron. It calls for the creation of a “public monopoly of production and distribution of cannabis”, with approved producers and specialized shops.

Fight against organized crime and tax revenues

Legalization that would “both fight against organized crime, restrict access to products for the youngest and develop an economic sector, creating jobs and tax revenues,” according to the document.

Purely consultative, the analysis testifies to new debates in the aisles of power.

While Emmanuel Macron rejected the decriminalization and introduced a fine of 200 euros for small consumers, this circle of economists recommends to France total legalization as in Canada, some states or Uruguay. This “controlled legalization” is also defended in a recent cross-party law proposal, notably supported by five “walker” deputies.

“The prohibition system promoted by France for 50 years is a failure,” say the authors of the note, Emmanuelle Auriol and Pierre-Yves Geoffard. Despite some of the most repressive legislation in the Old Continent, France is Europe’s champion of cannabis use, with “worrying” use among minors.

“Prohibition has favoured the experimentation of cannabis because of its great availability, despite massive investments in repression.”

The experts also denounced the “politics of the figure”. Since 1970, the number of arrests for simple use “has been multiplied by 50”.

In one year, the state spends “568 million euros” against cannabis, 70% of which is spent on law enforcement actions and 20% on judicial and penitentiary services. Only 10% finance prevention, care and research.

Specialized shops and a supervisory authority

According to the scientific literature, a “moderate consumption” of cannabis has “no serious harmful effects” on the health of adults, recalls the note. This drug increases the risk of schizophrenia “of the youngest”. The CAE therefore recommends legalization accompanied by a ban on sales to minors.

For this, economists want “centralized state management” as in Uruguay or Quebec.

In concrete terms, the State would issue licenses to “authorized producers and distributors”, as for tobacco. But unlike cigarettes, cannabis would be sold in specialized shops, forbidden to minors and easier to monitor.

This system would be headed by an “independent administrative authority” responsible for regulating the market and creating the conditions for drying up the black market by ensuring sufficient, good quality products at a sufficiently low price. The note recommends a final price of nine euros for one gram of grass, against about 11 euros currently on the street.

The CAE also estimated the economic benefits of such legalization. On the assumption of an annual cannabis consumption of 500 to 700 tons per year, economists estimate that legalization could create between 27 500 and 80 000 jobs. With the key, tax revenues of 2 to 2.8 billion euros.

Government closes the door

They recommend reinvesting in prevention, neighbourhoods and the fight against trafficking. “Although we generally oppose them, legalization and repression are complementary public policies,” the document notes.

This note was written “mobilizing the most recent results of academic research” on cannabis, “is aimed primarily at opening the debate,” told AFP co-author Pierre-Yves Geoffard.

“By articulating prevention, repression, promotion and control of the sector, we can do better in terms of public health, protection of minors and economic interests,” he added.

For the Government, however, there is no room for debate, while Philippe has just announced that the fight against narcotics would be a “priority”. “The government remains clearly opposed to the legalization of cannabis,” his office told AFP.

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