Cannabis users across France took a high-risk step on Tuesday by registering “Cannabis social clubs” with local authorities as official non-profit organizations. The stunt is a bid to win public backing but it could land them up to 30 years in jail.
The Loire Atlantique regional council in the western city of Nantes was one of numerous local authorities on Tuesday to receive an official application to register as a non-profit group from a local cannabis social club.
The authors of the official application, however, are unlikely to be holding their breath for a positive response.
In registering their weed-smoking social clubs with local authorities throughout the country, those behind the stunt hope to illustrate what they see as disproportionate and unfair laws against cannabis use, and force a change in legislation.
“We want to remove the sword of Damocles from over our heads, and demand recognition from the public authorities,” said Farid Ghehioueche, from the group ‘Cannabis sans frontières’ (Cannabis without borders), speaking to Europe 1 radio on Monday.
“With this demonstration, we want to show there are responsible people, well-integrated into society, who use cannabis in a reasonable way and don’t want to be considered criminals any longer,” he added.
However, the nationwide publicity stunt may yet backfire.
Cannabis-growers in France today face a harsh legal reality. Anyone caught cultivating the plant can face up to 30 years in prison and a whopping €7.5 million fine – penalties on a par with those reserved for terrorists in France, according to Europe 1.
Authorities across the country are at least required to consider the applications before turning them down.
“The prefect is obliged to acknowledge the request, and to issue a receipt to that effect,” a spokesman told regional daily Ouest-France on Tuesday.
However, the prefect now intends to refer the application to the local prosecutor, on the grounds that the club is based around illegal activity.
A procedure which could be replicated all over France in the coming days and weeks, with as yet unknown results.
By Dan MacGuill (firstname.lastname@example.org)