Freed Ming defiant in cannabis campaign

 

Ming the Merciless, the west's best-known advocate of the legalisation of cannabis, has vowed to continue his campaign after completing his first prison sentence.

Ming, alias Luke Flanagan (26), of Castlerea, Co Roscommon, was released from Loughan House open prison in Co Cavan last weekend after completing nine days of a 15-day sentence. The first two days were served in the new penal institution in his home town of Castlerea.

He was imprisoned on December 8th after refusing to pay a £200 fine and £100 expenses for breach of the Litter Pollution Act.

Mr Flanagan claims the penalty imposed on him was a direct result of his involvement in the cannabis campaign and that the nine-day stay cost the State at least £1,000. The prosecution followed a complaint made by Galway Corporation about posters he had erected.

He contrasts his treatment with a complaint that he lodged against two political parties and a pro-Europe organisation for breaches of the same legislation after the Amsterdam Treaty referendum. His complaint resulted in £25 fines against the two parties under the Litter Act.

Almost a year ago, the Galway-based campaigner smoked his last joint and set off for jail after refusing to pay a £150 fine for the possession of cannabis. He had been convicted on two summonses in Galway District Court in October 1997 for possession of cannabis worth about £10.

However, he discovered on arrival at Mill Street Garda station that the fine had been paid by his father. His mother had said she would not like her son to go to prison.

"The hardest part of it this time was the effect on my mother, but I survived," Ming said yesterday. Although he is opposed to the concept of prisons, he said that Loughan House was a very enlightened institution.

"It is the way to go," he said.

Ming now intends to stand in the European elections next year on the cannabis ticket, having stood on the same campaign platform during the last general election, polling 540 votes.

He also ran the Dublin City Marathon in a time of three hours 20 minutes.