Any student can tell you that recreational drug use is not just prevalent in society, it has permeated every facet of Irish life from hospitality to hospitals, and from politicians to postmen. Almost every house party has someone who can get a bag of cocaine, MDMA, or ketamine. This is not the reality for every person and every party, but it is more than just common, it is normalised.
I am not here to argue in favour or against drug use, it is none of my concern what other people do with their free time, as long as they can do it safely. What I argue for, as with anything else, is the safety and wellbeing of people put first.
Ireland has an oppressive regime of anti-drug laws that are designed to make it harder for cartels to make money. At least on paper, that is what they are for. In reality, the drug laws of Ireland punish the sick instead of treating them. An epidemic of drug use has washed over our country in the last 20 years, with approximately 1-in-5 using cocaine or cannabis in Ireland today.
Cannabis cultivation and sale is the backbone of the illicit drugs trade: it is a cheap to produce and it is never out of demand. Cannabis literally lines the pockets of drug cartels the world over, financing their operations to smuggle harder drugs.
Decriminalising and regulating cannabis would be the first step in tackling the unlimited reach of drug cartels across Europe, as it would end the relationship between the customer and the drug cartels. It is a myth that cannabis use leads to hard drug use, it is less habit forming than any other widely available drug. The cause of major drug use is, however, is seen in the mechanism used to deliver cannabis.
People have local dealers, these dealers get drugs from someone slightly higher up the food chain, and so on and so forth. If we decriminalise and regulate how cannabis is grown and sold in Ireland we would not become some drug infested hellhole, we would take drug users away from unregulated genetically modified cannabis that has been shown to cause long term psychological damage.
In my own home, I see the consequences of an adversarial relationship between drug use and the state: I buried my brother Tadhg on the week of his 23rd birthday, and another brother of mine is serving a sentence that will keep him away from his kids for years.
For Tadhg, he became addicted to drugs to escape a painful mental illness, he was failed by our laws and our health system to point where he chose not to live anymore.
My other brother, Andrew, fell afoul of drugs law trying to repay a debt to some dangerous men, and now he watches his child grow up through iron bars.
There is no difference between someone sitting in a pub and drinking a pint of beer, and someone sitting in a café and smoking a joint. Both are doing it in a designated safe area, and both are using mind-altering drugs to pass the time. There is no moral argument that can be used against weed being sold legally, considering we allow alcohol to be sold despite the direct link between violence and alcohol.
The choice ahead is clear, do we continue to spit on drug users from our seats in the pub, or do we wise up and learn to love the bud?