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DRUGS

France to slash fines for pot smokers amid rise in cannabis use

The French government announced on Thursday that it will slash fines on those caught smoking pot, despite cannabis use being on the rise in the country. Their aim is to lessen the work load on the overburdened police and the justice system.

France to slash fines for pot smokers amid rise in cannabis use
Photo: AFP

The French government announced on Thursday that it will slash fines as part of a new policy on cannabis use but that it will not pursue decriminalisation of the drug.

Cannabis use is on the rise in France, with around 700,000 people estimated to use the drug every day.

“We are going to introduce simplified fines for this offence,” said Interior Minister Gerard Collomb.

Collomb said further action against offenders would remain an option, adding: “Therefore there will be no decriminalisation for cannabis use.”

The new fines are expected to be set at 150 to 200 euros ($180 to $250).

France's current laws around drug use are some of Europe's strictest, providing for fines of up to 3,750 euros and prison sentences of up to a year.

In 2015, the last year for which figures were published, 140,000 people were arrested for drug use offences, though only 3,098 were given prison
sentences.

Parliament speaker François de Rugy hailed the new policy as “pragmatic”.

“In the past, police officers and judges would spend a lot of time on procedures which ended in formal warnings being given, so it didn't serve any purpose,” de Rugy told BFMTV/RMC television.

Decriminalisation of cannabis and other drugs has been a hot topic in France in recent years, with those advocating such a course facing accusations of being soft on crime.

Police unions and judges have also expressed their opposition to any softening of the law.

Some other Western countries have recently moved towards softer penalties for cannabis use, with several US states legalising recreational use altogether.

Germany, Belgium and Italy are among those European states that have opted for decriminalisation.

DRUGS

French minister calls for Eurovision winner to be disqualified if singer fails drug test

France's Europe minister on Monday called for "total transparency" over speculation that one of Italy's victorious Eurovision contestants used cocaine during the song contest, saying it should be grounds for disqualification if confirmed.

French minister calls for Eurovision winner to be disqualified if singer fails drug test
France's entry, Barbara Pravi, said she didn't care whether Måneskin had used drugs or not. Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP

Damiano David, the outlandish vocalist for Italian rockers Måneskin, has agreed to take a drug test after video footage appeared to show him snorting something from a table backstage during Saturday’s contest.

“I think there needs to be no doubt here, and total transparency,” Europe Minister Clement Beaune, who attended the show in Rotterdam, told RMC radio. “If there is a problem, there are penalties… Provisions are made for sanctioning measures, including potential disqualification in case of problems.” 

French hopes had been riding high on singer Barbara Pravi, who was a bookmakers’ favourite to end France’s 44-year Eurovision drought with her
moody ballad “Voila.”

But she was edged out at the last minute by a surge in public votes for Måneskin, with a final tally of 524 to Pravi’s 499.

“I don’t want to be a sore loser,” Beaune said, but “in terms of image, we can’t let people think that such competitions can result in such behaviour.”

The president of France’s public broadcasting group, however, said Monday that France would not contest its second-place finish, no matter the speculation over David’s backstage antics.

“France has absolutely no intention to lodge an appeal,” France Televisions chief Delphine Ernotte told the Parisien newspaper. “The vote was quite clearly in Italy’s favour — it didn’t steal its
victory and that’s what matters,” she said.

Pravi herself said she was not interested in the speculation.

“What’s true is that they were chosen by both the public and the jury. Afterwards, if they use drugs or they put their underwear on backwards or whatever… it’s not my problem,” she told France 2 television on Sunday.

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