Thursday, May 08, 2008

Get up, Stand up - legalising cannabis campaign

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

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.


  1. You're quite the scríbhneoir today. Keep it up (I been too busy reading other blogs to blog).

    On the point, I consider myself to be a liberal; I'm in favour of change and progress and dragging our collective asses out of the past, but the legalisation of Cannabis is certainly not the way forward.

    It is illegal for many reasons. It is a harmful substance and despite the pseudo-arguments against escalation to other drugs, I have witnessed first hand people's progression from Cannabis on to harder drugs. There is an argument that 1/3 or Irish people use the drug, but I find this hard to accept and would love to see the research.

    In a culture where we are fighting against our dependence on another substance (sweet, sweet alcohol), the fact that politicians are even entertaining legalisation is yet another painful example of modern politics bending to the will of those who shout loudest rather than those who are right.

    D, I think I know your views on legalisation, so I'm not attacking you here. I will say however, if groups of motivated, young people organised a march to demand a change to other laws (laws against drink driving for example), I doubt you'd be so impressed.

    Cannabis is illegal. Just because many people break this law, does not make it a good thing.

    Rant over!

  2. The joys of insomnia and scheduling posts to appear. Sitting in the airport at the moment replying on my brick.

    You make valid points Darren and I deliberately tried to leave my personal views out of the post, especially because the idea of the piece is to allow people make up their own minds.

    In relation to the drug I admit to having little to no knowledge or exposure. I've read conflicting reports on its damage compared to something like nicotine or alcohol, on the crime rates where it's legal and ultimately I'm none the wiser. I know people who smoke and as long as they don't try to force their habit on me, I'm content.

    Re the legislation, well, where to begin? The amount of resource spent apprehending and prosecuting those who have it for personal use, the willingness to chase this down rather than deal with harder problems, the nanny state syndrome and the refusal to enter into dialogue about it all come to mind. I looked for a while today for the legat position on why it's illegal and couldn't find the social/medical/criminal grounds for it. I'd like to know why a drug that is - allegedly - less harmful than alcohol is illegal, when we have so many alcohol related problems and crimes in the country, drink driving being one of the most tragic killers. We certainly talk a lot about the issue but what's really done about it?

    My mother is crippled with arthritis and other rheumatic pains, and so has to take a cocktail of prescribed legal strong painkillers which render her less than lucid at the best of times, rather than something to relax her. Given her age she's not too worried about getting hooked on coke. There's also the terminal aids and cancer patients who have to be knocked out with morphine having no quality of life compared to one that this drug could allegedly possibly give. I think everyone needs more facts on it before making an absolute judgment. Take into account the legal situation and history of this country and you might see what I mean.

    The motivated young people against drink driving laws - a very good and valid point. But to turn it slightly off topic I'll bet the non confrontational, open to dialogue and asking to be heard engaging approach of these people was of far more effect than something like the lisbon treaty campaign, like the hated Rock the Vote campaign and is something far more people would welcome.

    There are many campaigns I may not agree with or see the point of or even understand but it's great to see people motivated enough to get up and be heard. At least then questions can be asked, lessons learned and dialogue begun. If people keep silent about things, nothing will change.

    Better to strike a match than curse the darkness.

  3. Thanks for an informative post. As with all causes, there will be many who oppose others' views and wishes.
    Campaigning for a cause that one is committed to is a noble deed.

    In regards to 'the crabling otter's comment:
    (See link below for references)
    Contrary to popular belief, cannabis is *not* what could be considered a valid 'gateway' drug. Yes, a majority of heroin, speed and cocaine addicts tried cannabis before using harder drugs. However, 80% off ALL cannabis users *never* move on to a harder drug. I'd suggest that these figures would make it a 'terminus drug'. That is, the majority of users of cannabis never go on to harder drugs.

    While smoking cannabis may lead to a greater risk of bronchial conditions than non-smokers, there is no concrete evidence linking cannabis to lung cancer or Emphysema in the way tobacco is linked. Further, if the smoking factor is removed from the cannabis debate, the positive medicinal values of cannabis far out-weigh any negative effects.

    I could go on, but I won't. If you would like more medicinal cannabis information, my blog may be able to help:
    It's Medicine Jim

  4. Darragh

    I'm all for people getting out and having a voice or as Damien would say, get out and push!

    However I don't agree about legalising cannabis for social use but I do wish it could be prescribed for medicinal use. There are many medical conditions where cannabis is hugely more effective than any prescribed drug and this sub-group of patients should not be forced to use an illicit source to access a supply.

    So I believe we need to regulate and educate but NOT to legalise cannabis in Ireland!

    btw Thanks for the link!

  5. @steph thanks for dropping by and commenting! That was a late night post so I'm sorry if it may have inferred in any way that you advocated the legalisation of the drug - I've edited to amend - but am in agreement about the medicinal values of the drug being studied and then regulated in a similar procedure to any legal drug. As I commented to Darren I see how conceivably my own mother could benefit from some of its alleged benefits. (being very careful in how I word things here.)

    @indica man - welcome to my blog and thanks for stopping by. Thanks also for sharing the information - I'm a believer in getting as much information as possible to help make an informed rational judgment based more on fact than fear. Thanks again.