Farid Ghehioueche Talks Cannabis Clubs
July 5th, 2013
Categories : Blog
In the past year or two, “Cannabis Clubs” and “Cannabis Social Clubs” have been popping up around France. Essentially, they are made up of small groups of people who get together and grow cannabis for their own consumption, smoking the herb and giving no support to the illegal cannabis rings that invade the country’s cannabis supply.
Members of Cannabis Clubs smoke cannabis in joints or bongs openly, in their homes or out on the porch. Some grow their plants simply in their yards or gardens outside, or even out on porches as well or in closets. Not all Cannabis Club members are this gallant, of course, and many keep to themselves with their cannabis use. But the Cannabis Club movement and its principles have been growing momentum.
Farid Ghehioueche works at the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies (ENCOD). He is also a self-claimed founder of the Cannabis Club movement. When asked about the issue at hand, here’s what he had to say.
“Part of the solution, not the problem”: Ghehioueche first talks about the two-sided face of the cannabis world. On one side, cannabis is gaining more and more traction as a natural and highly beneficial medicinal herb. On the other, it’s impossible to ignore the organized crime and violence associated with the drug war as well as cannabis’ role in the problem.
Everyone is looking towards the same goal, Ghehioueche explains. Neither cannabis activists and Cannabis Club members nor groups against its legalization support the drug war that is currently paralyzing the globe. They simply differ on their proposed solutions to the problem.
To this point, Ghehioueche says Cannabis Clubs are part of the solution, not the problem. Cannabis Clubs encourage cannabis growth that reduces sales of illegal drug rings and, if adopted widely, will greatly reduce the hold of drug criminals throughout the nation (with this point he refers to the fact that members of Cannabis Clubs breed and grow cannabis for themselves, without ever having to interact with criminal dealers). Ghehioueche says that as he continues to inform more people of the “Cannabis Club model” and its principles, they begin to see how it fits together and often end up supporting the solution.
He further claims, “We don’t necessarily expect the authorities to support our activities but we hope it will show that they can at least trust us to help tackle drug trafficking, with all its negative effects on society. Right now, we don’t know if our ‘cannabis clubs’...will be shut down.”
Ghehioueche talks about the trial of Dominique Broc, national coordinator of the Cannabis Social Clubs Français. He was arrested for his personal growth of cannabis plants by the French police in February. His plants were seized and his trial continues. The result, Ghehioueche remarks, “could tell us a lot about how the French justice system views cannabis clubs.”
Moving on, he laments the mindset of French law regarding cannabis users, treating activists and personal users as criminals versus interest groups and personal use as medication. Back in the 70’s, when hard drug use was spreading under the snowballing counterculture of the period, the country passed several laws as an effort to put a stop to the flourishing drug trafficking rings. Because of these laws, he says, French policies in the past forty years have been locked in a period of “regression rather than progression.” Today, he points out, there are around a million daily cannabis users in the country. Out of these million, a fifth are “caught up in the criminal justice system in France,” each year.
On top of all this, Ghehioueche explains, the enforcement of the excessive jail crowding, court dealings, and arrests related to cannabis, are a terrible use of taxpayers’ money and a waste of the budget allotted to police stations nationwide.
France’s cannabis laws are also disproportionately harsh, compared to most nations, he argues. Netherland is a prime example, Ghehioueche states, in which “you have people smoking cannabis in public places like cafés, parks, and on the street, without having to break the law. In France, by contrast, we have to suffer the unbearable nuisances that come along with the punishments of illicit street dealing.”
More recent victories in the nation post-interview, however, include the country’s federal legalization of medicinal cannabis. Still, in other ways, the country’s laws fail to progress. Ghehioueche points out that the way drug policies are carried out by French police unfairly target the youth and racial minorities, among other demographics. Further, as laws restrict a blanket form of all cannabis possession and sale, yet the herb is still illicitly available country-wide, he argues that the laws only end up making it easier for underage smokers to find a steady supply of cannabis.
Overall, he summarizes that the harsher laws of France only tighten the grip illicit drug rings have on the nation, and that the efforts and legislation termed as “harm reduction” policies only further the damage caused by France’s criminal drug rings.
Ghehioueche hopes that French legislators will see the activists’ point of view, looking to see an eventual reform in cannabis health laws. It seems like they may have, as since early June, medicinal cannabis has been legalized in the nation. But he still has more steps to take.