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HEALTH

Northern French communes ban swimming after beaches contaminated

Authorities in northern France have banned swimming at the beaches of Urville-Nacqueville, Ravenoville and Foucarville following a bacterial contamination.

Authorities in northern France have banned swimming on certain beaches following a bacterial contamination.
Authorities in northern France have banned swimming on certain beaches following a bacterial contamination. (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP)

Many will regret that the sea is no off-limits – particularly in the midst of one of the country’s most severe heatwaves in history. 

On Friday evening the Regional Health Authority of Normandy warned of a bacterial contamination of three beaches along the Channel – Urville-Nacqueville, Ravenoville and Foucarville. The communes of La Hague and Sainte-Mère-Eglise then moved to ban swimming. 

Local decrees mention high levels of E. coli as well as Enterococcus in the water. 

Experts believe that the high prevalence of Enterococcus is likely due to sewage. 

“In the case of the Channel beaches, the fact that there is Enterococcus is a sign that there is feacal contamination in the water,” said infectious diseases expert Jean-Paul Stahl in a FranceInfo interview.  

The ban on swimming at Urville-Nacqueville will go on until at least Tuesday June 21st and will only be lifted if tests show that the contamination has settled down. 

The ban on swimming at the beaches of Ravenoville and Foucarville will last until June 30th. 

Other contaminations

France has suffered other bacterial contaminations in recent days. 

On Friday, residents of Châteauroux in the Indre département were warned to stop drinking tap water after high levels of E. coli were detected. 

The exact source of the outbreak is unknown.

Among the many hypotheses put forward by scientists and local officials is that there has been some kind of sewage leak or that somehow bacteria from an abattoir entered the water supply – E. coli is often found in the intestines of cattle. 

Children and infants are particularly vulnerable to the bacteria. Local officials have banned the bathing or showering of these groups until the water is deemed safe. 

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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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