Flashback: When Children still consumed Cannabis at recess

69 years ago, Cannabis was banned from elementary schools

What if we told you that in elementary school, your grandfather never left without a few grams of Cannabis from the garden in his leather satchel to share with his friends at recess? Considering it beneficial for the mood and digestion, many mothers grew hemp in their garden to accompany the glass of milk of their young heads... finding it weird? Let us explain everything.

Cannabis: the recess rock star

A local and traditional plant

"I remember it like it was yesterday. Before every school year, my mother would harvest the flowers from her Sativa plants," says Jean-René, 75. "She had them lined up along the window, right next to the sunflowers. She would cut the stems with an old pair of secateurs and hang them in the cellar, where it wasn't too hot." For this Briançon retiree, the Cannabis harvest meant the return of his favorite snacks. "I couldn’t wait for the flowers to finish drying so I could take some back to school."

Long before juice boxes and chocolate cookies, Cannabis flowers were the snack of choice for French pupils in the 1950s. In a society where the horrors of war were still on everyone’s mind, this plant was seen as a sweet and natural remedy against the ambient melancholy, and above all, as a very effective motivator for the future generations of a country in reconstruction.

In the French countryside, the cultivation of hemp has been an integral part of daily life for several centuries. In the 12th century, Hildegarde von Bingen already praised its merits in her writings, insisting on the effects of the plant on mood, digestion, but also to cure headaches. Like Jean-René's mother, she grew it herself in her gardens. 

But if hemp has gradually found a place among grandmother's remedies, it was above all for its agronomic interest: it requires little water, neither compost nor fertilizer, and adapts perfectly to the temperate climate of our countryside. Long before the consumption of cannabis became a symbol of social protest, it was used alongside the traditional glass of milk to the delight of many children. 


Besides, Jean-René's mother's garden was far from exceptional. Before the spread of trafficking in the second half of the 20th century, Cannabis was primarily a personal matter. Even before the little plant that flourishes under the artificial light of your studio, hemp often grew in the middle of sunflowers and tomato plants.

Inhale or chew: the key to a good start

"Once dry, my mother would cut the flowers into small pieces and put them in a small metal box that she would put in my schoolbag. And at break time, the teacher would go through the rows with matches," adds Jean-René in a nostalgic tone.  

Surprisingly, inhalation was the most common method of consumption in the playgrounds. It was gentler and more effective, and allowed children to enjoy the effects more quickly without them being too intense. "A few puffs, and the day can begin!", hammered Charles de Gaulle during a campaign of the post-war transitional government. 

To preserve the most fragile lungs, some parents also gave their offspring hemp leaves macerated in sugar, which they chewed between two classes. 

The darling of the school benches wasThe hemp flower Sativa, recommended by Medical Associations for its effects on brain activity. Stimulating, it favored creativity and concentration for the greatest happiness of teachers. "I always keep a small reserve in a drawer of my desk for the pupils who forgot their dose at home, without which the poor angels do not manage to follow the lesson effectively", declares Marie-Jeanine, who teaches in Montargis, in one of the very first reports of the ORTF. "It had a little orange taste, I loved it", adds Jean-René. 


Towards the progressive prohibition of Cannabis in schools

April 1st, 1953’s ruling

But what the young Jean-René did not know was that his first steps as a Cannabis user would soon end. In 1952, the Prime Minister Antoine Pinay creates a national advisory committee of school and university hygiene to supervise the consumption of the schoolboys. Published at the beginning of the winter, the Pinay report points out numerous drifts in the most remote towns, where the practices were less supervised and the drifts more frequent. A few incidents followed, such as the sad case of little George-Eric in the Sarthe region, which planted the seeds of a progressive contempt for despise in the Parisian upper classes.

Now convinced of the danger of the plant, René Mayer, the new head of the government, decided in the spring of 1953 to remove Cannabis from the French pharmacopoeia, before adopting the circular of April 1st, prohibiting the serving of any hemp-based product in schools to children under 12 years. 

Forbidden but not forgotten

In the countryside, this measure was widely criticized and led to several waves of protests. "After the ban, the transition was difficult. I felt like I had lost a friend," says Jean-René. "We kept a few plants at the bottom of the garden, so I was still entitled to a few puffs when I got home from Mass, if I promised not to tell my little friends," he adds, his eyes still full of childhood’s mischief.

But with the democratization of CBD-based products in recent years, which have helped to change attitudes, hope is reborn to see Cannabis make a comeback in the playground, and for Jean-René, to share moments of complicity with Jean-Kévin, his beloved grand-son.

You think we're pulling your leg? Well, you're absolutely right! For April 1st, the opportunity was far too good to let our creativity speak for itself ... What remains true, however, is that CBD is full of benefits and improves the daily lives of many people. To learn more, feel free to drop by the blog or join us on Instagram

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