“Clandestine Smoke” is the title of the first book written by Jean- Pierre Galland. With such a name, one could think this book aimed to tackle Syria’s illegal oil industry activities. Far from it, this is the first out of a long list of best sellers addressing the issue of Cannabis, and France’s own sad relationship with Marijuana. Besides transposing Jean-Pierre’s opinion on paper, he is, to say the least, a man of action. Activist to his very core, he has set up risky actions and passionately defends this plant, beloved to him for the last 30 years. In 1991, he created the Information and Cannabis Research Collective (CIRC), where he was the leader with his manifesto ‘Call to the 18th Joint’, which will stay for ever in the minds of hippies, ‘champagne socialistes’ and 68-melancholics. If the legal and penal situation is improving in quite a wide range of countries, France, as per usual is moving backwards.
J / Hi Jean-Pierre, when did you start getting involved with clandestine smoke ?
J-P / I must have been like 18 and now I am 63. It was hashish, surely bought from Morocco on the slopes of the Croix-Rousses in Lyon, France. I remember it, like it was yesterday, and when I shut my eyes those beautiful landscapes come into my mind. I just completely ignored that a big portion of my life would be spent to defend this plant.
J / Can you talk about CIRC
J-P / The Information and Cannabis Research Collective, or if we prefer CIRC was born out of the crowd of ‘Clandestine Smoke’, an encyclopaedia on cannabis, where I was the main author.
In 1990, I met the joyful calls to manifest all Saturdays on the square in front of the church of Beaubourg for cannabis legalisation. When the book was launched in 1991, we told ourselves that it was time for cannabis lovers to create an association and to provide information on this diabolical plan, even if under the law, it is forbidden as one may not present it under a positive light or encourage its use.
J / Lets go back to 1997, where you sent a joint to all French MPs in the hope to change something. What was the impact of this action ?
J-P / The code name of this action was ‘Parliamentary Operation Hemp’. In the second tome of the book ‘Cannabis, 40 years of misunderstanding’, I describe in detail this spliffing action, which made us known in France. It certainly was not a fluke ; we poured into it so much effort in the success of this operation. Along the spliffs, we also included the small booklet ‘An open letter to the legislators’ published by l’Esprit frappeur which was included with the joint made with ‘Black Domina’. We were sure that some MPs would not appreciate the joke. Actually 11 of them, lead by raging Christian MP, Christine Boutin, complained and sued us. This did suit us, as we had the intention to focus this trial on the 1970 law and request leftwing MPs to witness on our behalf, highlight the fact that our provocative little action did not incite people to smoke, but rather to open up discussions on this issues. The slow pace of the French judiciary system is well known, but on this particular issue they did not stalled. We were immediately summoned by the prosecutor, and a couple of hours later I left with a time and date set for my appearance in court. The manoeuvre’s purpose was crystal clear, they were trying to prevent us to prepare our defence strategy. This was certainly confirmed by the rejection of the prosecutor to postpone the trial.
J / Was it you who rolled all 557 joints ?
J-P / it was the occasion to have a little party between militants and us who had dope, the joint destined to Christine Boutin was certainly harsher... From what I know, most deputies disregarded our joints, but their assistants did go through the rubbish to get them back. Some MPs answered us back and two of them sent us alcohol! I have enclosed the letters sent to us in the second tome of the book, along with our replies... fucking hilarious !
J/ Could you tell us a bit about the operation ‘Cannabistrot’ set up in 1995 on the high-speed rail from Paris to Lyon ?
J-P/ The CIRC-Lyon decided to organized a demonstration against the drug prohibition the 1st April 1995, a few weeks be- fore the presidential elections. Because of the nature of the date, the CIRC-Paris, renamed the National French Railway Company called SNCF to ‘Supporters of the National Cannabinophiles of France’ and we decided to take the train for free. The CIRC Paris invited their members to participate and we began to plaster posters everywhere. It was a Saturday, 10 minutes before the departure, which was set at 11h, we all arrived completely dispersed, but at the agreed time, the train stayed in the platform. Rail responsible and civil cops began to search for us, found us and began to intimidate us to get off the train. We were something like 50 people or so and we tried to explain nicely the reasons for the actions, while refusing to obey. After an hour or so of discussions, along with the lovely company of the Riot police on the platform, the SNCF began to give us return tickets for the exceptional price of 50 french francs per person. After the demonstration, a column of riot police escorted us outside were the station manager was awaiting for us, all smiling, to give us the tickets.In the train, we nevertheless began to discuss with passengers, whom some of them, did share our beliefs and some even smoked our last Js with us. While some of the most paranoid thought that the cops would await for us at the end of the journey, at our arrival the platform was totally empty.
J/ I’ve noticed that you encouraged the creation of the ‘orange bud’ by your Spanish counterparts at a Cannabis competition. Among all the protests and similar type of events, which one was the one that stroke you the most ?
J-P/ Maybe the 1994 European Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam which was followed by the Cannabis Cup, organized by Hightimes. It was the year we the Jack Herrer was developed by the Sensi Seed had won. We were followed by French reporters from Canal+ for the National daily news show ’24 heures’ and whose diffusion launched, from what we heard, thunderbolts from the interior Ministry. I also recall the very first French Cannabis Cup, organized by the North-east CIRC in 2002, in a holiday resort in the Vosges. Anyway, all those stories are all detailed in the first volume of my book ‘Cannabis, 40 years of misunderstanding’.
J/ More and more countries are legalizing recreational or medicinal cannabis. Do you think France may take part in this ? Is our country just late or is there a cultural difference ?
J-P/ At the end of the day, reason always prevails over ignorance, lies and hypocrisy. The war on Cannabis is lost in France, like everywhere else, for that matter. In France, I’d like to point out that teenagers are Europe’s main drug consumers. Though, we have our very own national drug, alcohol has a strong lobby who wants to make us believe they are not. Yet, mentalities are evolving, and the Cannabis is currently consumed throughout all social classes and across all demographics. Uruguay has been the first country to legalise Cannabis, followed very closely by Colorado, where arguments against have been repeated over and over till satiation. This law will only change when the first concerned, namely weed lovers, come out from underground all together showcasing the positive spill overs that may be harnessed by the government, if it were legalized and home production allowed.
J/ The second tome of your book, ‘Cannabis, 40 year of misunderstandings’ just was published. What can you tell us about it ?
J-P/ This second volume, the reader will discover among many different stories, the backstage of the ‘Parliamentary Operation Hemp’ (1997), which is also followed by the tribulations of one the European Parliament candidates in 1999. This book also applauses the new French political stances in 2000s, and describes the event ‘Get’em out of the closet’, an action supporting Weed prisoners. I recall were CIRC activists distributed to over-18 participants enough to roll some Js. Funny thing, it was ‘Northern lights’, that very same, which won the annual competition in the french Vosges!!
J/ To finish off, could you end this article with your last words of wisdom advocating to this plant, whom you’ve been defending for so long. Which are its positive aspects and what kind of utilisation should we give to it ?
J-P/ At the CIRC, we have pushed for a legalisation of home production to protect us from potential risks. Cannabis lover, who would try to grow their own plant in their flat or home, would also advocate for its good health, as we all know, that the shit and weed tends to be cut with products, more or less dangerous. Also, growing weed in your own garden, we don’t have to go to the cites1, where you will be very likely sold other, more dangerous drugs and where money is not given to the mafias and gangs. That is why I call upon growing weed in your very own backyard, sharing your green space, exchanging tips and even the yields among friends. Vive la guérilla verte ! All in all, Cannabis has proved its therapeutically benefits, otherwise it would not be legal in 22 American states and tolerated in many European countries. To confiscate and destroy the garden of someone who grows weed to alleviate pains given by sclerosis or to induce hunger after a chimo session, is actual non-assistance to a person in danger. So, the same way the Berlin wall fell, the wall on the prohibition set from the inside will crumble one of these days.