Galway University: First Students' Union in Europe to Support Legalisation of Cannabis

Great news as students in Galway University have voted to support the legalisation of cannabis. NUI Galway Students' Union now supports the "legalisation & regulation of the cultivation, sale and possession of cannabis for adults age 18 and over" and is the first SU in Europe to do so. 68% of students voted in favour of the motion (1796 'yes', 838 'no').

Of course this does not mean that cannabis is legalised in Ireland, Galway, or even the university, but it does exhibit the rapidly changing attitudes toward drug prohibition and that this change is happening right here in Ireland.

This result was unimaginable to many even just a few years ago. Like so many things, even if someone admitted that the global regime of prohibition was unfair or a failure, the overwhelming likelihood was that they still saw it as a permanent fixture of our societies. But in the space of a few years cannabis has been legalised in 4 states - Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington - of the US of all places, the heartland and initiator of this repressive and profligate policy as we know it. In 2014, Uruguay became the first country to legalise cannabis, and some limited decriminalisation exists in the Czech Republic, Argentina, and Mexico. Times are changing. Even Deputy Prime Minister of the UK Nick Clegg advocated some weak form of decriminalisation of all drugs just a few days ago. Awareness of Portugal's policy of total drug decriminalisation - since 2001 - is spreading, and hence the knowledge that a fairer, practical alternative to prohibition is possible.

Undoubtedly drug prohibition is in its death throes. We can look forward to more and more nations decriminalising and legalising particular illicit drugs and all illicit drugs over the coming decade. We can look forward to the abolition of a deranged power trip which has imprisoned millions, throttled scientific research, wasted countless resources, and even destroyed an entire country (Mexico, approximately 100,000 killed).

It's hard to think of a single policy of commensurate destruction, so overloaded with reasons to repeal it immediately. Not only is drug prohibition a ludicrous pipe-dream (for instance Gardaí can interdict a maxiumum of about 10% of illegal drugs) but it's an assault on our liberty. Here's to the Galway students for recognising that.

Not only do we advocate the legalisation of cannabis, but the end of drug prohibition in general. Far from preventing harm, this inimical policy merely serves to give the state undue control over our lives, empower some of the most savage criminals on the planet to the tune of billions, and, based on superstition, stymy medical treatment.

If someone has a drug problem, the last thing they need is to be punished by the police. For most, criminalisation is their biggest drug problem. But for those who suffer from addiction, what they require is non-judgmental medical care, and support from family and friends, not the heavy hand of the state bearing down on them, and not the narrow-minded stigma which abounds in our prohibition culture.

As for cannabis in particular, it is laughable to support banning it for reasons of harm, especially in a society which so readily accepts the drug alcohol, which ranks relatively highly among drugs for harm to self and others. As widely touted, cannabis has never caused someone to die from overdose. Nor is it a 'gateway' to harder drugs like heroin. This is a perfect example of the superstition on which drug prohibition feeds, which has been debunked so many times.

Of course we must be wary of predatory corporations trying to convert addicts into fat profit margins, whose ceaseless drive to increase sales would impinge on the very liberty we advocate legalisation in behalf of. That is why we are libertarian socialists and not merely against drug prohibition. But state regulation provides a temporary sub-optimal solution while we live under this state capitalist system.

Below is a case for a Yes vote from the NUIG, Vote Yes to Cannabis Legalisation Facebook page:
Why Vote Yes?
  • Legalisation would generate a huge amount of money for the country in the form of tax revenue. In the first year of a regulated cannabis market in Colorado, cannabis sales were worth roughly €614 Million. While almost €39 Million was generated through taxation. UCD School of Economics Professor Ron Davies has estimated that a net benefit of cannabis legalisation in Ireland will come to €582 million per year. It’s true market value is debatable, but it clearly has the potential to raise hundreds of millions per annum.
  • Regulating cannabis would develop a new industry & create employment.
  • Ireland spends €176 million per year on drug enforcement, cannabis takes a large proportion of this bill, paid by you, the taxpayer. Legalisation would free up Garda resources & budget, allowing them concentrate on more serious crimes.
  • Regulating cannabis would make it safer for adults who choose to consume it, by introducing quality controls & known potency levels.
  • A legal cannabis market would offer adults an alternative to alcohol, which could also have the knock on effect of reducing violent crime, domestic abuse, sexual assaults and other serious problems that are closely linked to excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Roughly 100,000 people in Ireland have received criminal convictions for possession of cannabis. This severely restricts job prospects and the ability to travel. By legalising and regulating cannabis we would prevent otherwise law abiding citizens from becoming criminals for the so called crime of ‘cannabis possession’.
  • Cannabis prohibition means the market is controlled by criminal gangs. These gangs are known to use slave labour in Ireland an abroad. Legalisation would remove a valuable revenue stream from these gangs.
  • Legalising Cannabis would open up the potential for its medical use in treating illnesses such as glaucoma, PTSD, MND, epilepsy and pain relief for cancer patients

Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP)
Norml Ireland
Multidisciplinary Assocation for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS)
Professor David Nutt, former top UK drug policy advisor
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)
Several WSM articles about community action against drug use

The campaign for a Yes vote in Galway has been lead by the Students for Sensible Drug Policy Ireland (SSDP), if you are interested in a drug policy based on greater freedom, real harm reduction, and actual evidence, and are on Facebook, why not follow them? Also check out Norml Ireland which is specific to cannabis, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) which is doing pioneering research on the therapeutic applications of psychedelic medicines, and Transform which is an international non-profit organisation based in the UK which campaigns for the end of drug prohibition.