By Robert Myles
On Sunday, France's Socialist Minister of Education, Vincent Peillon, spoke in favour of the decriminalization of cannabis, principally as a means of combating drug trafficking in French cities.
The move in favour of decriminalising cannabis is far from being formulated as a policy of France's Socialist government. The Socialists have been conducting a debate on the issue since last June but recent developments in France have lent weight to those arguing that existing drugs policy, similar to those of most Western nations, simply isn't working.
In the southern city of Marseille, drug trafficking has become such a problem, bringing in its wake armed gangs, alleged police corruption and a spate of killings that at the end of August, the mayor of Marseille called for the French Army to be deployed to rein in armed street gangs in parts of the city.
Just last week, as reported on Digital Journal, French police cracked a multi-million euro Franco-Swiss drug running and money laundering operation with one of the seventeen arrested being a deputy mayor of one of Paris' arrondissements.
Speaking on radio France Inter, Vincent Peillon said, "This is a major issue. I now see almost every night on television reports of illicit trafficking in our suburbs and the danger in which our people live, including school children. Of course, it can be fought by law enforcement. I am absolutely in favour of that, but at the same time, I can see that the results are not very efficient. The question (of decriminalization) has been asked and I hope we can move to seriously address it," reports 20minutes.fr.
Peillon recalled that a former Socialist Minister of the Interior Daniel Vaillant had reopened the debate on decriminalisation of cannabis in early October by proposing the drugs' legalisation for therapeutic use, adding:
"I thought he was right then and I still do today. I'm sometimes amazed at how slow France has been to react to a problem that is staring it in the face."
France's opposition party, the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP), was not slow to react to Education Minister Vincent Peillon's remarks. A UMP deputy Lionnel Luca said on Twitter, "Incredible and outrageous that the Minister of Education should defend the decriminalization of cannabis.The UMP should demand his resignation. What an example to set!"
The problems facing government and law enforcement agencies in the United States in dealing with illegal drugs were highlighted recently by film star Brad Pitt as reported in the Digital Journal article Brad Pitt: 'US War on Drugs is a charade.' In France, in common with other Western democracies, the difficulties over how to deal with drug trafficking and associated crimes differ only in the scale of what law enforcement agencies have to tackle and how to combat drug crime under legislation as it currently stands.
Whether the UMP approve or not, the debate over the legalisation of cannabis in France looks set to continue for as long as drug related crime persists.
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