With Justin Trudeau to our north and Emmanuel Macron just across the pond in France, it's easy for Americans to have #LeaderEnvy these days...especially with President TwitterFingers in the White House.
After ethering Trump's reckless pull out from the Paris Climate Accords, Emmanuel Macron has his sights set on one-upping Trump through serious criminal justice reform.
France will soon introduce legislation to do away with mandatory prison sentences for minor cannabis offenses, making good on one of Macron's long-held campaign promises.
In comments to French publication AFP, President Macron's spokesman Christophe Castaner detailed the thinking behind the planned overhaul of the French criminal justice system regarding cannabis offenses:
“Last year, 180,000 people were found to be in violation of drug laws [in France]...
On average these cases take up six hours of police time and the same amount for the presiding magistrate. Is the system effective? No.
What is important today is to be effective, and above all to free up time for our police so they can focus more on essential matters.”
Under current French drug laws, offenders can expect up to a year in prison plus a fine of as much as €3,750 (roughly $4,200).
According to official statistics provided by the French Observatory for Drug Use and Addiction, 17 million French citizens have reported trying cannabis at some point in their lives, and 700,000 claim to use it daily. Under current French laws on the books, every single one of those people is considered to be a criminal.
Pretty absurd, don't you think?
Most EU member states have at least de facto decriminalized cannabis, so this is just France showing up to the party fashionably late.
Despite what seems like a consciously progressive move on the young president's part, Macron has consistently reacted to calls for outright cannabis decriminalization with stonewalling:
“...consuming drugs remains serious and is dangerous to health.”
Despite its illegality and social stigma, just like in the U.S., there is a strong French countercultural movement in favor of bringing cannabis out of the shadowy illicit underworld and into the light of everyday society.
Many consider cannabis prohibition to only be serving the massive prison-industrial complex, which disproportionately punishes cultural and ethnic minorities for offenses that are committed with equal frequency in white communities.
So with that in mind, Macron getting rid of prison time for cannabis users is a huge victory and a step towards overhauling a backwards criminal justice system.
But at the same time, it's a reminder that progress comes in small portions, and there is still much work to be done...