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France’s Drug Trade Valued at €2.7bn, as Macron Admits Failure of Drug War to Stop Violence

The illegal drug trade in France is worth at least €2.7 billion ($3.1 billion USD), making up around 0.1 per cent of the country’s GDP, authorities have said.

The figures were calculated by researchers at France’s National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE). The head of INSEE’s national accounts department, Ronan Mahieux, warned that the numbers may underestimate the trade’s true value, as interviewed respondents may have been wary of divulging the extent of their drug purchases.

The two illegal drugs generating the largest amount of income were cannabis, which added an estimated €1 billion to France’s GDP, and cocaine, which contributed around €800 million – according to French public radio service, RFI.

INSEE’s findings were published just days after President Emmanuel Macron admitted that authorities had “lost the battle against drug dealing in many housing estates”. His remarks came during a discussion on violence in banlieues, the low-income suburbs of France's major cities where many migrants and ethnic minorities live.

In a bid to quell prohibition-related violence and counter drug trafficking gangs, Macron's government has pledged to increase the police presence in the banlieues. With particular urgency, interior minister Gérard Collomb said that 60 police officers would be relocated to the Busserine district of Marseille, where a recent gang-related killing took place in broad daylight.

These plans mark a continuation of the government’s attempts to crackdown on drug trafficking and related violence with policing and punitive policies. As TalkingDrugs reported in May 2017, Collomb announced that people who have been convicted of selling drugs will be temporarily prohibited from returning to their local area after release from prison.

As the illegal trade of cannabis makes up over a third of the country’s drug trade value, many activists want the substance to be legalised and brought into the regulated market. Nonetheless, as in most EU countries, the production and sale remain illegal and potentially punishable by lengthy sentences. The simple possession of the drug, however, is being downgraded from a crime to non-criminal offence – meaning that someone found in possession of cannabis for personal use will be fined rather than prosecuted.

Polling suggests that cannabis reform has considerable support among the French public, and that attempts to suppress the trade are broadly seen as a failure. As TalkingDrugs reported, Around half of French people favour some form of cannabis legalisation, while 84 per cent believe that the current approach is ineffective at "limiting the trafficking and consumption of cannabis".

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