The results of the referendum on cannabis legalisation were not announced as scheduled this evening due to an administrative error.
“The results of the referendum are not going to be announced as a result of a constitutional issue that arose earlier today,” said Cat O’Driscoll, the new DCU Students’ Union Returning Officer.
O’Driscoll told The College View that the online system through which students voted allowed St Pat’s students to vote on the referendum when they shouldn’t have.
O’Driscoll was informed earlier today that a recent constitutional amendment meant that St Pat’s students weren’t allowed to vote. The recently appointed Returning Officer said she wasn’t made aware of this when she took over the position last month from Steven Conlon.
The Returning Officer is unsure whether or not the DCU votes can be extracted from the St Pat’s votes but said that the SU are in contact with ISS on campus to see if this is possible. She was unable to say whether or not another referendum will take place in the coming weeks if the DCU votes are unusable.
In the referendum, students were asked whether or not the DCU Students’ Union should be mandated to support and campaign for the legalisation of cannabis.
The following question appeared on the ballot: Students will be asked to vote yes or no on 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.
O’Driscoll said a large number of students voted in the referendum. The referendum ran concurrently with the DCUSU elections, the results of which were announced as planned.
DCU Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) led the yes campaign on campus for the referendum. O’Driscoll said she has tried to make contact with SSDP chairperson Dan Kirby earlier on in the day to inform him of the error but she was unable to make contact.
Kirby was confident that the vote would pass while campaigning last week. “We haven’t felt any opposition yet. Everyone we’ve spoken to on campus has been very supportive. I’m sure there will be people who will be opposed but I think the vast majority of people realise it’s a no brainer,” he said.
Aodhan O 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.”
O 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.”