NUI Galway students vote yes in cannabis referendum

Students in NUI Galway have voted yes to a referendum that will see the university support the legalisation of cannabis in Ireland.

68 per cent of the students voted yes, which was just shy of 1,800 votes.

The referendum was held after over 500 students brought the motion to the NUIG Student’s Union in late February. It is the first student body in Europe to support the legalisation of cannabis.

The referendum asked if the Student’s Union should “actively support the legalisation and regulation of the cultivation, sale and possession of cannabis for adults aged 18 and over.”

Campaigners on the prevailing yes side have said that over 100,000 people in Ireland have criminal convictions for possession of cannabis, which they claim is a substance less harmful than tobacco and alcohol.

The legalisation of cannabis would see it become highly regulated and taxed, something that the yes side also campaigned for.

The yes side was supported by NUIG’s Students for Sensible Drugs Policy (SSDP) branch, the Socialist Society, and the NUIG Sinn Féin Cumann, as well as Midlands-North West MEP Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan and Garda whistleblower John Wilson.

While the Class C drug is far from being legalised nationwide, this result now means the NUIG SU is mandated to support the legalisation of cannabis should a national campaign arise.

Ciarán Maher from NUIG’s SSDP said the referendum outcome was a “strong statement against the current system of handling cannabis in Ireland, which allows this very profitable industry to be controlled by criminal gangs”.

Speaking to The College View, Aaron Harper of DCU’s branch of SSDP said “The idea of the referendum is to force people, not just students, to have a conversation on the [cannabis] issue. Many students support the idea of a change in our drug laws but very few come out publicly about their views. This forces them to.”

When asked about a similar referendum happening in DCU, Harper said “we have no plans on a referendum as of yet but that could change in the future.”

Kevin Kelly

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