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French health minister steps up to Paris mayor race after sex tape scandal

French health minister Agnès Buzyn has been selected to replace the candidate for Paris mayor who was toppled by a sex tape scandal last week.

French health minister steps up to Paris mayor race after sex tape scandal
Agnes Buzyn is the new LREM candidate for Paris mayor. Photo: AFP

Benjamin Griveaux resigned from the Paris mayoral contest on Friday after a sex tape featuring him was leaked online by Russian performance artist Piotr Pavlensky.

His resignation caused a headache for Emmanuel Macron's La République en Marche party, which is predicted to do badly in next month's municipal elections and which had set it sights on wresting control of Paris City Hall from the present incumbent, Anne Hidalgo of the Socialist Party.

READ ALSO From urban forests to armed city police – the possible new faces of Paris


Married father-of-three Benjamin Griveaux resigned from the race on Friday. Photo: AFP

Hidalgo is currently leading in the polls with just under a month to go until voting starts. She is followed by Rachida Dati of the centre right Les Républicains party, while Griveaux had been in third place until he dropped out.

Also running are David Belliard of the Green party and Cedric Villani – a former member of LREM who was expelled from the party after refusing to stand aside for Griveaux in the mayoral contest. He is now running as an independent.

Buzyn, a former doctor who has been health minister since 2017, is generally regarded as one of the more popular figures in the Macron government.

She told AFP that: “I'm going for it with the aim of winning.”

Over the weekend Pavlensky and his girlfriend, who is reportedly the former girlfriend to whom Griveaux sent the video of himself masturbating accompanied by explicit messages, were arrested on charges of invasion of privacy and publishing images of a sexual nature without consent.

Spreading intimate images without the consent of the person featuring in them is forbidden in France, punishable with up to two years in prison and €60,000 fine.

The case has sparked major debate in France, where the sexual misconduct of politicians had previously been regarded as a purely private matter.

Numerous public figures – including Grvieaux's political enemies – have denounced the release of the videos as the 'Americanisation' of politics.

READ ALSO ANALYSIS: Does the Griveaux affair mean it's now open season on French politicians' sex lives?

Buzyn has been replaced as health minister by Olivier Véran, a former neurologist and member of parliament since 2012.

 

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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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