Every country has a pioneer among its Cannabis activists; the one who first could see the light, while the fog of ignorance was still blurring the vision of the many. In the old country that first man’s name is Jean-Pierre Galland: Journalist, writer, advocate and active protester in favor of Cannabis in France.
Despite being the most popular French Cannabis writer since the 90’s the man loathes media attention. So it took a while to convince him to talk with us but finally, there was a long ride through the superb French countryside to meet Jean-Pierre in person.
For The Blinc Group, Jean-pierre has agreed to break the silence and has welcomed us into his home for an exclusive interview. This is a moment with the French Prophet of Weed, the man, the myth, the legend: Jean-Pierre Galland.
“France has had the worst results with prevention after the famous “zero-tolerance” policy with Cannabis 35% under 25 years old are using black market Cannabis at least once a month and 25% of the whole population weekly as well. In France prohibition has led us to ignorance, fear and irrational thinking about Cannabis.”
What’s your story Jean-Pierre?
I was born in 1951 and raised in the French countryside by a former member of the Resistance and a current member of the Communist party. Later in order to study, I joined the University of Vincennes, it was right after the events of 1968 in France.
As far as I remember I always wanted to be a writer, so at the age of 25 I began to write like one. I found myself an editor that went bankrupt ever since and I wrote a few novels and romantic books that went completely forgotten, even I forgot about them, and it’s a pretty damn good thing ;).
Then while I was a student and even sometimes after I lived the life of a delinquent. For many years I was actually selling a lot of Cannabis, and that has been my life until my first son was born; I was about 37 years old, things needed to change.
So, since I really loved everything about Cannabis and I also loved writing I decided to create a book about Cannabis. And progressively the Idea came out about writing my first book “Fumée Clandestine”.
Tell us about your best-seller: Fumée Clandestine?
It’s been a 20-month process. I remember that very few people had a computer yet in France, so I had to go and borrow one of my friend’s PC in their Paris office. I was sneaking there secretly and working during the night you know. It was a real bargain, because In France, showing Cannabis in a positive way is a felony and this law has always been actually enforced, so I couldn't publically display what I was writing about until it was ready. The whole process was kept secret.
But most importantly, there was no Google, no internet connection, and no cell phone as you can imagine, so it took me some time to explore the Paris libraries, the museums, and even the newspaper archives to retrieve all the information I needed.
Honestly, when looking back in the mirror, I must say that writing Fumée Clandestine felt a bit like climbing the Himalayas while wearing flip-flops shoes.
"Cannabis peacefully opened my vision of the world"
How did Cannabis affect your life?
The first time I tried Cannabis I think I was around 17/18 years old. It was a night in Lyon’s street in France. One of the street guys had bought a piece of Hashish to smoke it, I was there too so naturally, I tried.
The effects of Hash struck me as fast and hard as it gets. I remember closing my eyes and experiencing psychedelic visions. In the detail, I had in my mind the vision of colorful and endlessly raw spiritual temples and mosques dancing in the air… I didn't really know what had just happened but for something had occurred in my mind and in my body, something that would change my life forever. Something looking a bit like that.
The first change that came right after I began smoking Hash is that I stopped drinking alcohol almost instantly. And you can tell that I had a serious problem with drinking back then. Progressively Cannabis peacefully opened my vision of the world, while I was using it I truly felt ‘whole’, inspired and protected.
"I never chose to become a public personality"
From writer to activist, how did it happen?
You may find that funny but today I realize that somehow I became a hero of misfortune. After my book got out, I suddenly received spontaneous support from thousands of French activists who were pushing me upfront, exposing me as if suddenly the national cause of Cannabis was lying on my shoulders. I must Say I was very surprised myself because I never asked for that although I remember this period as exciting times for sure. But if you really want to know the truth: I’ve never made any real money out of selling my books. From the start I knew I had picked the wrong editors, that's because nobody wanted to publish a book about Cannabis. So I went where I could go to publish it, really.
Eventually, after a long and painful process of creating the book itself, I got summoned by the editor who had submitted the book to his authorized French lawyer Francis Caballero. I remember they highlighted almost half of the book! So how could I re-write the whole book after all this time and work then? ... Well, I decided to pretend I did, but I never did change a single word really. So the book was released as I wrote it, as it was, and no matter what the lawyer would say this is the version that got out.
A month after I was on national television in access prime with a jacket I borrowed from a friend the very evening of the show. At that moment the media machine began rolling with me as the national Cannabis advocate but really I never chose to become a public personality.
In France Your name is associated with the CIRC movement, what can you tell us about it?
The year before I released Fumée clandestine I've randomly met with a group of activists in Paris Beaubourg. These guys were openly talking, organizing forums and debates asking for a change in the Cannabis laws. So we sat together and decided to build our own association we were lefties and libertarians, fighting for the right to grow, smoke and share Cannabis. We created the CIRC so at least we would legalize the discussion somewhere by fact: as the law wouldn't allow us to talk about Cannabis publicly without risking jail time and huge penalties.
In 1993 we've used an old paper of the newspaper Liberation as an excuse to fund of the "Appel du 18 Joint" a word game on General De Gaulle's famous radio call to demand the legalization of Cannabis. (Juin is spelled like Joint in French). So now every year in France on the 18th of June it's 4:20 so to speak, and we're smoking in the streets and demonstrating for the freedom of cannabis here, it has become quite an institution.
What was it you guys wanted exactly, and what did you get?
Since 95/97 the CIRC is campaigning to legalize the production of Cannabis and a drastic change in the rules of consumption and trade of Cannabis. I'll tell you what we managed to get: nothing. Ever since we've been asking for flexibility we're being answered that Cannabis is dangerous illegal and that we should be taken care of by addiction councilors. If you consider Cannabis a good thing in France, you should keep this as quiet as your weed joint. Nobody is at liberty to say or show Cannabis positively: Grow shops, artists, Facebook or Twitter are being watched and the Cannabis prohibition is, first of all, a mind thing in France. Nothing has changed in 30 years and France is still stuck with prohibition today.
Are you still growing Cannabis?
I always did and I always will, first of all this is a very relaxing hobby and everyone should be able to grow Cannabis together with vegetables and salads in his garden *laughs*
How about the recent project to use fines for Cannabis Smokers in France?
I think the idea of giving Cannabis user a fine is a terrible thing even if that means the revision of no-less terrible 1970’s law. It would be an unfair move targeting young popular and poor classes. It’s nonsense that the media could even report it as a move forward legalization. Prohibition is the mother of corruption and the black market is the rule in France with ignorance for the masses and violence in the streets. For the last 40 years, the political class has abandoned the problem of Cannabis to local criminals and it's quite a shame.
"My advice to the youth: plant seeds everywhere, grow ideas, become the change"
How do you see the wave of Cannabis legalization laws in the US states?
The US states who have legalized can already see the use of Cannabis amidst young people hasn't increased. The streets in Colorado are still safe and pleasant as for many states who have legalized recreational Cannabis. It's a good thing for the people, the state and the business in my opinion. My only concern is about edibles, as everything goes too fast in US sometimes we need to learn how to educate and prevent trouble from happening because of Cannabis.
I just hope I'll live long enough to see France answering positively to legalization one day. My advice to the youth: plant seeds everywhere, grow ideas, become the change.
- Recorded Friday the 13th of October 2017 in Tarn France - The Blinc Group 2017 All rights reserved