France to fight cannabis use with €200 on-the-spot fines

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French police will start hitting users of illicit drugs, particularly cannabis, with on-the-spot fines starting in September, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced on Saturday.

Spot fines of 200 euros ($233) have been tested in several French cities in recent weeks and will now be applied nationwide, Castex said, ruling out a decriminalisation of cannabis.

A French law dating back to 1970 allows for illicit drug use to be punished with up to a year in prison and fined with up to 3,750 euros, but few users actually do jail time.

French people are Europe's leading consumers of cannabis and hold the number three spot for cocaine use.

The new measure would simplify police procedures by "inflicting punishment without delay", Castex said during a visit to the southern port city of Nice, and would be an efficient tool against sale points run by drug dealers "which are eating away at neighbourhoods".

If paid within two weeks the fine will be reduced to 150 euros, but will rise to 450 euros unless settled within 45 days.

The move honours an election campaign pledge by President Emmanuel Macron, who said spot fines should be used to deter petty crimes that often end up unpunished in overloaded courts.

The number of 15- and 16-year-olds who admitted recent use of cannabis was higher in France than any other European country in a 2015 survey published by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug addiction, an EU agency.

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