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POLITICS

Row after Hollande calls Sarko ‘dirty guy’

Supporters of France's President Nicolas Sarkozy demanded that his main opponent in his re-election battle apologise Wednesday after he reportedly insulted him at a lunch for political journalists.

Socialist flag-bearer François Hollande, who will face Sarkozy in April’s election, allegedly called the president a “sale mec” – literally a “dirty guy” and roughly equivalent in force to a term like “nasty piece of work”.

Tuesday’s lunch was supposedly an off-the-record briefing for reporters, including one from AFP, but Hollande’s taunt was partially revealed in the daily Le Parisien, drawing outrage from the right.

Le Parisien reported the term as an insult, but other journalists at the lunch interpreted the phrase as part of an imagined dialogue in which Sarkozy described himself in unflattering terms in order to appear tough.

Imagining himself in the mind of Sarkozy, Hollande said: “I’m the president of failure, a nasty piece of work, but in this difficult period I’m the only one capable of handling things. I alone have the bravery.

“He’s going to present himself as Captain Courageous, courting unpopularity. He’s a weak candidate because if that’s how he’s beginning his campaign it’s unimpressive. France deserves better,” he continued.

Several of Sarkozy’s ministers and supporters in parliament denounced the insult. Valérie Rosso-Debord of Sarkozy’s UMP party said: “Frankly, it’s a red card offence. You do not insult the president of the republic.”

Interior Minister Claude Guéant branded Hollande’s attack “unacceptable” and several other ministers demanded a public apology from the opposition leader.

Sarkozy is reportedly privately very caustic about Hollande, and his career has also been marked by several insulting outbursts.

In February 2008 he was caught on camera telling a member of the public who refused to shake his hand at the Paris agricultural show: “Get lost, you stupid bastard.”

Responding to the criticism, Hollande’s spokesman recalled this episode.

“Honestly, if Francois Hollande had said to Nicolas Sarkozy ‘Get lost, you stupid bastard,” he would have had reason to complain,” Bernard Cazeneuve said.

“But that’s not the kind of thing François Hollande says and François Hollande will not be the president of ‘get lost, you stupid bastard’.

“This story is false. François Hollande is not in the habit of launching insults. He campaigns on the issues,” he continued.

“And as to the way this non-event has been exploited by the UMP, I suppose that when Sarkozy calls François Hollande ‘small’ it’s meant as a compliment, or that when he calls his supporters ‘crackpots’ he’s just being friendly?”

The alleged epithet caused a storm on Twitter and the comments sections of French news sites, as supporters of both candidates traded insults.

Sarkozy is trailing Hollande in the opinion polls, which suggest that he on course to lose to him in May’s second-round presidential run-off, but he has begun making up ground on his rival and observers expect a tight race.

POLITICS

‘Public opinion is ready’ – These French senators want to legalise marijuana

A group of 31 French senators of the Socialist, Green and Republican parties have come together to write a statement calling for the legalisation of marijuana in France.

'Public opinion is ready' - These French senators want to legalise marijuana

France is known for having some of the strictest laws regarding marijuana consumption in Europe – while simultaneously maintaining one of the highest rates of cannabis usage in the EU. 

A group of French senators – coming from the Socialist, Green and centre-right Les Républicains parties – are trying to change those laws, and have come together to call for marijuana to be legalised in France.

The group of 31 co-signed a statement published in French newspaper, Le Monde, on Wednesday, August 10th.

In the statement, the senators promised to launch a ‘consultation process’ to submit a bill to legalise marijuana “in the coming months.”

The proposition was headed by Senator Gilbert-Luc Devinaz, a member of the Socialist Party, and gained support from the party’s leader, Patrick Kanner.

READ MORE: The long and winding road towards changing France’s cannabis laws

A report by the Assemblé Nationale, which was published in May 2021, estimated that nearly 18 million French people (more than 25 percent of the population) had already consumed marijuana, and that an additional 1.5 million consume it regularly.

This, coupled with the 2019 finding that nearly one in two French people (45 percent) said they were in favour of legalisation, according to a survey by the French Observatory of Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT), helped strengthen the senators’ position.

“Public opinion is ready, the legislature must act,” they wrote.

Their senators argue that legalising marijuana in France will allow the authorities to better protect French citizens, saying that legalising would not require “minimising the health impacts of cannabis consumption” but rather would allow regulation similar to “public policies for tobacco, alcohol or gambling.”

For the group of 31 senators, the benefits of legalisation would involve a better control over the “health quality of products consumed,” “curbing trafficking in disadvantaged areas,” developing large-scale prevention plans,” and finally the taxation of cannabis products and redirection of law enforcement resources. Decriminalisation – in their opinion – would not be sufficient as this would simply “deprive authorities the ability to act,” in contrast to legalisation. 

READ MORE: Is France moving towards legalising cannabis for recreational purposes?

“In the long term, new tax revenues would be generated from the cannabis trade and from savings in the justice and police sectors”, which would make it possible to mobilize “significant resources for prevention as well as for rehabilitation and economic development,” wrote the senators.

In France, the conversation around cannabis has evolved in recent years – former Health Minister (and current government spokesman) Olivier Véran said to France Bleu in September 2021 that “countries that have gone towards legalisation have results better than those of France in the last ten years,” adding that he was interested in the potential therapeutic use of cannabis.

Currently, the drug is illegal in France. Previously, it fell under a 1970-law of illicit drug use, making it punishable with up to a year prison and an up to €3,750 fine.

However, in 2020, the government softened the penalties, making it possible for those caught consuming it to opt for an on-the-spot fine of €200.

There is also an ongoing trial involving 3,000 patients to test the impacts of medical marijuana usage, particularly with regard to pain relief. 

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