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‘Won’t help your schoolwork’: Emmanuel Macron sniffs marijuana on French Guiana trip

French president laughs off the fumes in the air as he tours the streets of capital Cayenne

French President Emmanuel Macron meets residents during a visit to the Crique neighborhood, in Cayenne, French Guiana. Photograph: Ronan Lietar/AFP/Getty Images

French President Emmanuel Macron meets residents during a visit to the Crique neighborhood, in Cayenne, French Guiana. Photograph: Ronan Lietar/AFP/Getty Images

Last modified on Sun 29 Oct 2017 03.25 GMT

French president Emmanuel Macron played it cool when he caught a whiff of marijuana during his visit to French Guiana, warning youngsters it won’t “help with your schoolwork”.

“So, there are some of you who do not only smoke cigarettes, huh?”, he said to laughter after posing for photos with locals in the Crique neighbourhood of capital Cayenne on Friday night.

“That will not help with your schoolwork,” he could be heard telling the smokers on a video posted on the presidential Facebook page in the overseas territory. “You have to tell the youngest!”

Macron wrapped up his 48-hour visit to the impoverished South American territory, which borders northern Brazil, on Saturday.

The French president faced demonstrations at the start of his trip over the issue of aid. Many locals feel they are overlooked by the government in Paris, with unemployment at 23%, large amounts of immigration, pot-holed roads and poor public infrastructure compared with mainland France. The protests came six months after unrest erupted over security problems and unemployment.

Macron said he had not come to “make grand promises that are hot air”, and said past promises had not been kept. He added: “I am not Father Christmas” and that he would not treat people like children.

French president laughs off the fumes in the air as he tours the streets of capital Cayenne

Macron cannabis

French police will target people smoking cannabis in public. /Carlo Allegri/CFP

Just weeks into his role as Emmanuel Macron’s new prime minister, Jean Castex has begun a new policy of on-the-spot fines for drug users on French streets.

Police said the policy would target cannabis smokers. Although laws on the substance vary across the world, and some countries in the Americas have legalized it, in France and many other European nations it is still illegal. France is said to be one of Europe’s biggest consumers of cannabis.

After test periods in Rennes in the north west and Marseille in the south east, the powers to fine drug users will be rolled out nationwide.

Castex said the fines of $233 would aim to “put an end to the violence of everyday life,” after cities like Nice witnessed upticks in drug-related violence.

There are already laws against taking drugs in France, notably those written in the 1970s which recommend prison sentences. But with judges in France less willing to give out custodial punishment for relatively minor crimes, this new policy represents Castex’s hope that fines will stop small-time offenders without thrusting them into the criminal justice system and potentially leading to more crimes.

New prime minister Castex announced the new powers in Nice, on the Mediterrenean coast. /Yann Coatsaliou/AFP

Castex added that it would be “inflicting punishment without delay” on drug dealers.

Meanwhile, the Macron cabinet has been under pressure as the new interior minister GГ©rald Darmanin has faced accusations of rape.

Macron has backed his pick for one of the top government positions despite the allegation from Sophie Patterson-Spatz, who worked for the political party he was then a representative for.

However, some have linked the crackdown on crimes which are seen as minor to the decision to back Darmanin over such a serious matter, and questioned the Macron government’s priorities.

Macron cannabis French police will target people smoking cannabis in public. /Carlo Allegri/CFP Just weeks into his role as Emmanuel Macron’s new prime minister, Jean Castex has begun a new