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article imageToday is National Joint Day in France Special

By Michael Cosgrove     Jun 18, 2009 in World
June 18 is a very important day in the diary of a French cannabis smoker. Rallies are going on in French cities today in support of less severe cannabis laws. I attended the rally here in Lyon to find out more about the movement.
This day is called ‘L’appel du 18 joint’ which is a word play on De Gaulle’s famous rallying call ‘L’appel du 18 Juin’ (‘Appel” means ‘call’) to the French people from London on June 18 1940. The word play is that “joint’ in French is pronounced the same way as ‘Juin’, making them homonyms.
The De Gaulle speech name was amusingly taken up 30 years ago in a manifesto published by French daily ‘Liberation’ called ‘L’appel du 18 joint’ and thus this annual event was born. The manifesto called for more tolerance vis-a-vis cannabis smokers, who are relatively severely punished in France if they are caught in possession of even small quantities.
The petition that circulated at the time was signed by none other than Bernard Kouchner, founder of Medicines Without Frontiers, the UN representative in Kosovo and current French Foreign and European Affairs Minister.
The campaign is now organised by the CIRC – ‘Collectif d’Information st de Recherche Cannabique’ – who organise rallies each June 18 in major French cities. Their manifesto revendicates “Reasoned use of (the cannabis) plant and a legal framework for its production, distribution and use.”
The CIRC is also well-known for its action in 1997, when it sent an information booklet to every Deputy in the French Parliament. Each booklet was accompanied by....a joint. This resulted in renewed parliamentary debate on cannabis, but legislation has steadily hardened since that time.
Those arrested for possession of personal consumption amounts in France for the first time have to attend government information lessons on the dangers of drugs. A second infraction sends many people to jail for four years. These sentences are part of a zero-tolerance approach to all recreational drugs.
Those controlled positive for cannabis content in their blood whilst driving automatically lose their licence for six months. All accidents involving injury, however slight, lead to alcohol and cannabis testing. The ban also applies if you last consumed cannabis the day before the test.
The 18 June rallies are generally tolerated by the authorities, and few people are arrested for smoking during them. Although, in what seems to have become a kind of ritual, the leader of the Paris rally is systematically taken to Drug Squad offices to be questioned at the demand of the Public Prosecutor, although he is not charged and is systematically released.
The start of the Lyon rally was accompanied by rain, but that didn’t stop people from turning up. Some were curious, some were connoisseurs, but all were welcome.
Pro-Cannabis day  Lyon France
Pro-Cannabis day, Lyon France
Michael cosgrove
I talked with Thomas Parizot, the Coordinator for the Lyon rally, about the organisation’s objectives. Thomas has worked in this field since the early 1990’s, and sees the easing of legislation to be in the interests of the whole community.
“We want to see a real debate on the issue of cannabis. Sending joints to Parliament was a good idea, but at the end of the day, it’s the moral aspect of it all that is stopping progress. It’s a shame, because all the time and money spent trying to stop an activity that will not go away is pointless. What is highly regrettable is that there isn’t even a debate on its possible medicinal properties here.”
We moved on to discuss the issue of cannabis, and resin in particular, being cut for the street market, and the damage it can do. The stands at the rally were packed with information on this and other related issues. Here are a couple of those stands.
Pro-Cannabis day  Lyon France
Pro-Cannabis day, Lyon France
Michael cosgrove
Pro-Cannabis day  Lyon France
Pro-Cannabis day, Lyon France
Michael cosgrove
“Street market resin here has always been cut, and lately it’s been done using finely crushed glass and fine sand.”
“Glass!!?” Why glass?
“It adds to the weight of the resin at sale, as does sand. The problem is that although some of it melts, the rest leaves minuscule cuts and lesions in people’s lungs and can cause respiratory diseases.”
As we talk, the rally’s sound system is booming out music and people are having fun. Here are two friends soaking up the decibels from the funky sound system.
Outdoor Sound System
Outdoor Sound System
Michael cosgrove
Was that one of the reasons that he favoured the legalisation of home-grown cannabis?
“Of course. It’s all about developing a responsible approach to one’s own life. We are not asking for legalisation as such, but depenalisation for those caught with personal use quantities and a framework for responsible and controlled growing and use. We cetainly don’t want a state monopoly on the revenue from cannabis.”
A lady comes over to say that there is something he should go deal with in the rally so we wrap things up. “Oh” I ask, “What are your personal reasons for doing this?”
“I did my studies in the field of agriculture. One day I’m going to move to the countryside and grow chanvre and promote the development of all the products that can be derived from it, like soaps and flour, for example.”
I wish him luck and go back to the rally to take a couple more pictures. But I get one of him first.
Thomas Parizot from  L appel du 18 Juin
Thomas Parizot from 'L'appel du 18 Joint"
Michael cosgrove
I wasn’t the only person taking pictures of course, and the atmosphere was calm but fun, with lots of conversations going on within a very fraternal crowd. As I walked around, I could smell the different kinds of cannabis-derived products being smoked. Everything from bad resin to good quality grass.
Photographer
Photographer
Michael cosgrove
Pro-Cannabis day  Lyon France
Pro-Cannabis day, Lyon France
Michael cosgrove
Here is one of the stands. The banner says “Responsible policies for Responsible use.”
Pro-Cannabis day  Lyon France
Pro-Cannabis day, Lyon France
Michael cosgrove
Just a note on the tolerance accorded to this event to finish with. The police generally leave smokers alone on June 18.
The proof of that was when I said to Thomas “Is that a joint you’re smoking?”
“Yip” he replied...
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