Gilbert-Luc Devinaz: “Legalization is the least bad solution”

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The socialist senator will soon table, with his parliamentary group, a bill to legalize cannabis in France. A new attempt which has little chance of succeeding, but which continues the debate. Newsweed met him in the Senate.

Newsweed: In 2015, a bill to legalize failed in the Senate. In the National Assembly, other texts were also rejected in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2022. This time, do you believe it?

Gilbert-Luc Devinaz: No. But we only lose the fights we don’t fight (he’s laughing).

But then, why try your luck if you don’t believe in it?

I think the debate is always enriching. In Parliament, we are there to negotiate. This is the strength of a democratic society. It’s true that bringing in a law that doesn’t pass is frustrating. But there is also a joyful side to having been able to debate. It’s better than silence.

Is your bill already drafted? Are you going to receive associations specializing in cannabis to listen to their proposals?

No, it is being drafted. Normally, it will be tabled at the end of 2022. We have already heard from the former MP Michèle Victory, the economist Christian Ben Lakhdar, the representative of NORML France Hugo Bessenay. And we want to hear magistrates, law enforcement, doctors… The doors are not closed.

There are several models of cannabis legalization, among countries that have taken the plunge. Which one should we follow in France?

There are several important points to define. The first is age. Should 18-year-olds be allowed to legally buy cannabis? Doctors, on the other hand, recommend avoiding consumption before the age of 25. Between 18 and 25, we have to find a happy medium. Do not define an age too late, at the risk of fueling a parallel black market. Then the price. It must also not be too high, like cigarettes. Also, we need to define where we could buy cannabis. We favor a specific location, such as CBD shops. And then, finally, we have to determine the role of the state.

In this regard, are you in favor of a public monopoly, as in Quebec for example?

(He shrugs) France has done well with tobacco! I am not in favor of the free enterprise of the cannabis trade, because the goal is to reduce the number of consumers, not to increase them. We may not be asking the state to become a cannabis grower… but we can imagine a model where it delegates to the farmers, and strictly controls the quality of the product.

Luxembourg has just authorized the self-cultivation of cannabis, the German government wants to table a bill to legalize its trade by the end of the year. In France, the government has reinforced repression with a fine of 200 euros. Why this discrepancy?

France is conservative. We have historically had a bad image of cannabis. First because it’s a drug that comes from the colonies (Morocco, the leading cannabis producer, was a French protectorate for 40 years). Then, because cannabis is associated with the demonstrations of May-68, with the hippie movement, and all this scared the power of the time. And then the opponents of legalization think that allowing cannabis is like allowing people to take drugs. Finally, there are many traffickers who have no interest in legalization.

In your opinion, is the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin a brake?

He thinks prohibition lowers cannabis use, but it doesn’t. According to him, it is necessary to increase the number of police forces, to clog the courts. But it doesn’t work like that. And then he also thinks of 2027, thinking of seducing a right-wing electorate with a discourse focused on security.

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