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French minister apologises for Champions League chaos

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin on Tuesday made a partial apology for chaos at last month's Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool in Paris, while insisting fake tickets and "delinquency" were mostly to blame.

French minister apologises for Champions League chaos
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin (C) attends a meeting with cabinet ministers after the parliamentary elections. (Photo by Thomas COEX / POOL / AFP)

“Should things have been managed better at the Stade de France (stadium)? The answer is yes. Am I partly responsible? The answer is yes,” Darmanin told RTL radio.

“Of course, I readily apologise towards everyone who suffered from this bad management of the event,” he added.

After scenes of fans crowded into tight spaces and being tear-gassed by police caused outrage around Europe, Darmanin poured fuel on the fire by blaming supporters with fake tickets for the disruption.

UEFA events director Martin Kallen last week told French senators investigating the fiasco that the football body’s count of fake tickets was far short of the tens of thousands claimed by French authorities.

“We don’t believe it’s the number mentioned in France,” he said, adding that 2,600 fake tickets were identified at turnstiles — compared with the number of 30,000 to 40,000 people with fake tickets and without tickets suggested by Darmanin.

“It was a question of fake tickets… that created the difficulties we all know about” of large crowds of fans packed into underpasses or outside locked gates, Darmanin insisted Tuesday.

He added that “if there was something that went wrong at the Stade de France, it was the fight against delinquency”, saying he had already ordered a reorganisation of policing around the venue and that three major matches since had passed without incident.

While some supporters did report being victims of crime by gangs of youths before and after the match, there were also many complaints about police treatment of fans.

Disabled Liverpool fans last week told the Senate how officers sprayed tear gas at people in wheelchairs.

The English supporters have reacted with particular fury to Darmanin’s defence of the French police’s actions.

“People’s memories will forever be tarred by the lack of organisation and heavy-handed policing, and then of course the way authorities tried to deflect blame and scapegoat Liverpool fans for their incompetence,” Liverpool mayor Steve Rotheram told AFP earlier this month.

CCTV footage from around the stadium has also been deleted despite the Senate probe.

A government report published earlier this month said a “chain of failures” by French authorities has inflicted “severe damage” on the image of the country as it prepares to host the Olympic Games in 2024.

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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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