Newsbrief: French Cannabis Activist Faces Jail for "Encouraging Drug Use" 2/21/03

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A leading member of the French pro-pot group Cannabis Research and Information Collective (http://www.circ-asso.org) was placed under formal investigation for encouraging drug use early this month after police raided his shop and found cannabis seeds, growing equipment, and T-shirts bearing the logo "In France, it's illegal to say cannabis is good" being offered for sale. Stephane Karscher, who operates the "Bad Seed" shop in Montpelier, faces a possible jail sentence under French laws barring the advocacy of marijuana use.

In 1998, CIRC founder Jean-Pierre Galland was fined 50,000 francs ($8,300) after CIRC sent a joint to every member of parliament in hopes of spurring a debate on cannabis law reform. Karscher was involved in that effort, but escaped punishment.

The arrest comes in the midst of a crackdown on drugs and drug advocacy by the conservative French government of President Jacques Chirac and Interior Minister Nicholas Sarkozy. Since Chirac and Sarkozy took office last fall, the country has passed tough new drugged driving legislation, vowed to crackdown on electronic music festivals, and expressed grave concern about the growing popularity of cannabis. According to French government data, approximately one out of every four French adults have used cannabis.

Karscher told the newspaper Liberation (Paris) on Wednesday that police were looking for any excuse to arrest him. "They take everything at face value. It's a pretext to ban any debate on cannabis," Karscher said.

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