One of the many things I tend to be passionate about is people getting out there and doing things that they believe in and care about. In one of my favourite posts of the year so far Mulley told the Irish Internet community to get out and push in order to improve things in the community.
All types of people campaign for different things every day and it's great that blogs allow us to do that, as GM and Steph did about the health service.
But what about the non bloggers?
I was in town Saturday at Central Bank in Temple Bar and this table caught my eye.
What are people interested in?
The legalisation of cannabis in Ireland.
I'm not educated enough about cannabis to make a definite judgement one way or the other. The people I know who smoke it are all fairly normal people who use it to relax. It gets passed around at some gatherings and seems to be quite widely available in the market.
I don't know any dealers and wouldn't associate with them if I did - it's just something I choose not to do. The only drugs I've ever bought are over the counter legal painkillers and they've tended to suit me.
Cannabis is officially classed in Ireland as a scheduled substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977. This means that if one is caught with any amount, however small, you can be prosecuted and fined. According to the (slightly emotive and could-be-accused-of-bias) Legalise Cannabis website:
It is also an offence to grow cannabis plants and on summary conviction for this offence, you could be liable for a fine not exceeding €1,270 or a prison sentence of up to 12 months.
However if the court deems that you had the cannabis in your possession with the intent of supplying it, the punishments are much more severe.
Where the market value of the drugs is €13,000 or more (at vastly inflated police price estimations) the person convicted is liable for a minimum sentence of a shocking 10 years.
Legalise Cannabis Ireland want to change that.
I had a chat with Tim and MJ who were manning the stand on what was a glorious Saturday - where I'm sure their friends and peers were sitting in a beer garden or enjoying some of the events around the city. I was impressed that they were there talking to people about what they believed in.
They'd been heavily involved for the previous six weeks and were one of the ten core people involved in raising awareness, seeking understanding and trying to get through to people.
One of the important factors of their campaign is that they are not promoting cannabis use to everyone, and especially not under 18s. They advocate responsible use and have quite an interesting philosophy:
Legalise - Regulate - Educate
I picked up their information leaflet and in fairness it tries to give an objective outline of the current situation - the below is taken from same:
Apparently 1/3 of all Irish people aged 15 to 34 smoke cannabis. It is the most widely used illegal substance on the planet
It is estimated that 315 million euro is spent yearly in Ireland on cannabis alone
It is their view that the aim of policy and law on cannabis should be to reduce/limit social and health risks/problems for everyone on an equal basis.
Prohibition does not lower the rate of Cannabis use. It is the real gateway to other, harder drugs by putting cannabis in the hands of unscrupulous criminals, leading to no age limit, no quality control and no price control (leading to no government revenue...)
Prohibition prevents the very important use of cannabis as a medicine. It can be used to treat appetite loss (from AIDS or cancer treatment), nausea, glaucoma patients, MS sufferers and also to relieve depression and chronic pain.
Prohibition causes problems for those with a conviction for possession - limiting travel and career prospects and criminalising otherwise law abiding citizens, forcing decent people to associate with real criminals.
What I found most interesting about this whole thing was the attitude of the people involved. They were open to discussion rather than making you try to see their point. They were advocating responsible use and responsibility. From their website:
We do not believe in promoting use of cannabis to anyone, cannabis use is an individual decision that should be made after educating oneself about benefits and risks, but particularly to people with young minds/brains that are not fully developed and may be at higher risk to negative effects of psychoactive substances.
However wrong or right, it is fact that people (including young people) use and abuse cannabis.
Therefore we believe it is better to try and educate people, about the dangers and risks involved and hope they make the right decision for themselves
They're organising a protest march for Saturday 10 May at 2:30pm. They're expecting a big turnout - weather dependent of course. There was no violence or arrests at last years apparently and it's their intention - in a democratic society - to let their voices be heard.
Whatever your personal views on cannabis, I think it's great to see "young people" (or any people really!) getting out there, campaigning and getting involved in trying to change a system they see as being blind to the facts and alleged benefits. They're not going to benefit financially as such from the change, but from the freedom they appear to be seeking.
It's all well and good to complain about the problems with the country but what are people actively doing to make a difference?
The Legalise Cannabis Ireland website is at http://www.legalisecannabisireland.ie.
I must point out that neither I (nor any of the blogs I link to) are in any way affiliated with this campaign and do not endorse smoking, the sale or legalisation of cannabis without proper study, systems and regulation put in place, agreed on by health, social and legal professionals
I do though believe people have the right to question, to open a dialogue and have their voices heard in order to ensure the reasons for the way things are are valid ones. The only way things will change for the better is for people to make a difference.