French lawmaker proposes marijuana legalization

Feb. 1, 2014 at 1:13 PM

PARIS, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- A French lawmaker said she has written a bill to legalize marijuana in a country with some of Europe's tightest laws against the drug.

French Sen. Esther Benbassa, a Green party member who represents a district on the outskirts of Paris, said a bill legalizing smoking pot would not lead to many more people doing it than already do, TheLocal.fr reported Saturday.

"It's a subject that remains taboo in France," she said. "We have the impression that if we legalize cannabis, all the children, everyone, is going to start taking it. We are among the countries with the most restrictive laws in Europe, but at the same time the number of cannabis smokers continues to increase. There is really a paradox."

Marijuana possession in France is punishable by as much as a year in prison and a $5,000 fine, even though an estimated 13.4 million French citizens say they have smoked pot at least once in their lives.

That number is particularly high among young people. A 2011 survey found 24 percent of 16-year-olds said they smoke marijuana at least once per month, the highest number -- no pun intended -- of any European nation.

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