DCU students vote in favour of legalising cannabis

Large majority of students favour regulating cultivation, sale and possession of cannabis for over-18s

The referendum was the result of a petition produced by the DCU branch of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) which was the only registered group campaigning for a Yes vote. Photograph: Katie O Neill

The referendum was the result of a petition produced by the DCU branch of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) which was the only registered group campaigning for a Yes vote. Photograph: Katie O Neill

 

A total of 70 per cent of Dublin City University (DCU) students have voted in favour of legalising cannabis in a Students’ Union referendum which passed comfortably.

Students were asked to vote Yes or No to the following: 'The DCU Students’ Union shall actively support and campaign for the legalisation and regulation of the cultivation, sale and possession of cannabis for adults aged 18 and over in the Republic of Ireland'.

Some 1977 students cast their vote in the referendum with 1381 voting in favour of and 596 voting against.

The referendum was the result of a petition produced by the DCU branch of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) which was the only registered group campaigning for a Yes vote. No student or group registered as opposing the passing of the referendum.

Chairperson of the DCUSSDP and PhD student of Biomedical Physics, Dan Kirby remained confident that the referendum would pass.

“The fact that DCU now officially supports the legalisation and regulation of cannabis is just another sign that the days of prohibition are over,” Kirby said. “The younger generation know this and it's just a matter of time before the political establishment realise it. Legalising a drug doesn't mean you're supporting the use of it. It means that you think it should be regulated like alcohol, cigarettes and pharmaceuticals. This is a painfully obvious necessity that needs to become a reality.”

Kirby has spoken at the Oireachtas a number of times on national drug policy. He contributed to a cross-party Dáil committee which produced a report recommending Ireland adopt a Portuguese style approach to drug policy and impose decriminalisation. This became the official position of the Health and Justice Committee.

The DCUSSDP chairperson said that although the results of the referendum will have no national legal standing it will perpetuate the discussion on drug policy.

“A lot of people will ask us: why are we holding a referendum or what’s the point when they see legally, it’s not going to change anything, but the whole point is that it will mean that the voice of the students in DCU will be calling for the legalisation of cannabis the discussion will be happening too. It’s very important to have the discussion on all sides of the argument all allow everyone to have a voice.”

Aodhan Ó Ríordáin, the former minister responsible for drug policy said he’s not sure if he himself would vote Yes to such a referendum if he were in a position to vote. “I don’t want to isolate cannabis. The implication is that it’s less dangerous.”

He does support the holding of such a referendum for opening up the conversation on drug policy.

The former Labour minister who has been vocal on decriminalisation in the past, said that our current approach to drugs is failing. “We have a completely dysfunctional relationship with alcohol and there’s a building dysfunctional relationship with drugs . We haven’t come anywhere near tackling the issue,” he said. “My point is anyone with a drug problem should be referred to the health system and not the criminal system.”

Ó Ríordáin, who is running for the Seanad in the industrial and commercial panel said students have a considerable role to play in this debate. “USI have agreed they’ll campaign for legalisation. Students are the ones who are formulating their opinions and continue to change public opinion.”

DCU follow in the footsteps of NUI Galway (NUIG) where a similar referendum passed last year. A majority of 68 per cent of students voted yes to the NUIG Students’ Union adopting a pro-cannabis legalisation stance with 1796 students voting in favour.

Voting on the referendum began last week concurrently with the DCUSU officer elections. The results were announced in an email to students on Tuesday.

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