by Marie-Danièle BARRÉ – march 2008
In this paper, Marie-Danièle BARRÉ summarizes the trend in drug policies and in some penal policy indicators over the last ten-odd years. She recalls the specific contribution of CESDIP surveys on the penal repression of drug use. These show the interrelations between this particular offence and the professional logics in policing, along with the limits of its actual use, both as a signal tool for health agencies and as an instrument for criminal investigation.
The history of the drawing up of the 1970 Bill criminalising the use of substances classified as drugs led Jacqueline Bernat de Célis to speak of « a criminalisation not meant as such ». There was no lack of reasons advanced in support of the legitimacy of criminalising this behaviour, in which the victim is the offender : by ruling out use, the law would protect the weak against themselves by asserting a strong prohibition ; it would serve to signal individuals to the health authorities ; last, it would enable the law enforcement agencies to infiltrate drug networks. With use of cannabis soaring these days in France, calling into question the efficacy of the penal prohibition, what can be said about the penal response ?