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HEALTH

Coronavirus: France reports lower death toll as hospital numbers fall

France on Friday reported 389 more coronavirus deaths, a lower toll than in previous days, and also welcomed new falls in the number of patients in hospital and intensive care.

Coronavirus: France reports lower death toll as hospital numbers fall
Photo: VALERY HACHE / AFP

The deaths of 305 people in hospitals and 84 in nursing homes brought France's total toll to 22,245, top health official Jerome Salomon told reporters.

He added that there were now 561 fewer people in hospital and 183 fewer in intensive care, continuing a brighter trend seen in previous days.

READ: When will France's bars, restaurants and tourism businesses be able to reopen?

The number of coronavirus patients in intensive care has now fallen below 5,000, with 4,870 needing such treatment.

But despite the gradually improving data, Salomon said: “The circulation of the virus remains high. We must be mobilised and respect social distancing, which must become a reflex.”

President Emmanuel Macron has announced that the over month-long lockdown to battle the virus will be eased from May 11.

The details of how this so-called de-confinement will take place remain sketchy, with some schools set to reopen but establishments like cafes and restaurants staying closed.

“We must continue all our collective efforts with single aim — to arrive at the lowest level of circulation of the virus on May 11 and the lowest number of patients,” said Salomon.

“For the de-confinement to be a success we must respect the lockdown and social distancing”

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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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