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HEALTH

Macron promises ‘change of pace’ in France’s Covid vaccine programme

France should be vaccinating "morning, noon and evening", President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday as he tackles criticism that the Covid-19 immunisation drive has been too slow.

Macron promises 'change of pace' in France's Covid vaccine programme
Emmanuel Macron, right, and health minister Olivier Véran visit a pharmacy. Photo: Yoan Valat/AFP

“We’re going to change pace from April,” Macron said during a visit to an inoculation centre in the northern town of Valenciennes, adding there should be “no weekend and days off when it comes to vaccinations”.

He added that from Saturday, people over 70 with no underlying health conditions can book a vaccine appointment.

READ ALSO When will I be eligible for the Covid vaccine in France?

France is tackling a third wave of infections but is lagging behind many Western countries in terms of the number of people vaccinated.

It has rolled out some 8.8 million doses, compared with over 30 million in Britain and nearly 11 million in Germany.

While the inoculation drive has sped up in recent weeks, it has failed to keep step with a spike in new cases, which prompted the government to place a third of the population under ‘lockdown light’ last weekend.

The government announced on Monday that the army would set up 35 mass vaccination centres.

Until now, France has been relying on community halls, leisure centres, hospitals, doctor’s surgeries and pharmacies while the US, Britain and several other countries have requisitioned stadiums.

France aims to vaccinate 10 million people by mid-April and 30 million by mid-June.

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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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