- 22 May 07
Protesters in Dublin recently marched in support of their right to use cannabis.
It’s not unusual for crowds to assemble at Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance before marching off down O’Connell Street in protest at one thing or another. But the gathering on May 6 was novel: this was not the usual posse of left-leaning professional protesters, but the first anti-prohibition march ever staged in Ireland.
There being no precedent, the organizers had no idea what to expect. They had laid the groundwork, distributing thousands of leaflets, liaising with the Gardaí and promoting the cannabis cause in the media. A week of glorious sunshine had given way to rainy grey skies, and as 2pm approached, a thin crowd littered the entrance to the Garden of Remembrance, and the event began to assume the look of a damp squib. As it transpired, the only problem was punctuality, and by the time the protest set off for O’Connell Street at 2.30, the crowd had swelled to over 1,000.
The impressive attendance was all the more remarkable given the obvious risks involved: many more prospective participants stayed away for fear of Garda harassment. In the event, the approach of the Gardaí was almost Continental in its discretion, and it is heartening to report that the boys in blue appear to have graduated from the Robocop tactics of the past in favour of a more democratically-minded and tolerant approach. There were no arrests and the event passed off peacefully. Indeed, Gardaí praised the co-operative nature of the organisers and protesters in following their directions.
This was a protest like no other. It was charged with the frisson of illegality, and fuelled by the righteous anger of over a thousand remarkably orderly criminals, who find themselves on the wrong side of the law as a result of their alternative lifestyle choice. Their message was clear: we’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it any more.
The procession of young and old, male and female, Irish and otherwise, slinked its way to Central Bank chanting “We’re not criminals” and “Free the weed”. Dozens of passersby joined the march as it moved, while others shouted their support; one elderly woman awaiting a bus gesticulated with an imaginary spliff and roared “Revolution! Grow your own!”
Growing your own is the order of the day, with contamination rife within the Irish cannabis market. Chief march organizer, Tim Reilly, decried ‘gritweed’ and soapbar hash from the platform, urging the crowd to “stand up to unscrupulous dealers and refuse to accept these shitty products”. Unfortunately, Reilly’s message was lost on some of the protestors.
With the crowd largely dispersed, hotpress came upon two young gentlemen assembling a joint. Their weed failed the ‘grit test’ (ie it was crunchy when chewed, indicating the presence of glass particles), but the young men were unconcerned. They explained that it was less contaminated than other grit weed on the market, and opined that it was safer than soapbar hash, their only other option.
It is a testament to the total failure of our drug policy that young Irish men are making judgments about the dangers of smoking glass beads relative to the risk involved in smoking motor oil and glue with their cannabis. There is no doubt they are taking foolish risks with their health, but the government is playing Russian roulette with a generation of soft-drug users.