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Dublin: 7°C Thursday 15 April 2021

'Prince of Pot' on a tour of Ireland's universities to talk about decriminalising drugs

Should Ireland follow Portugal’s lead and radically reform drugs laws?

Image: The Canadian Press/Press Association Images

KNOWN AS THE Prince of Pot in the US and Canada, Marc Emery will begin a tour of Ireland’s universities tomorrow to kick-start a discussion on possible reforms of the country’s drug laws.

The cannabis activist has just emerged from a five-year prison sentence following his extradition to the United States for selling mail-order cannabis seeds from Canada.

Based in Vancouver, he has set up the Cannabis Culture Magazine, Pot TV, the BC Marijuana Policy, and Marc Emery’s Cannabis Culture Headquarters.

Along with his wife, Liberal Party candidate Jodie Emery, he campaigns for the legalisation of marijuana. The couple claims that current prohibition policy “enriches gangs while costing taxpayers billions of dollars to enforce, with no clear benefit to society”.

Emery will be joined by Dr João Goulão for the talks in Dublin, Galway and Cork. The Portuguese policy expert was part of the committee that advised its government to decriminalise the personal possession of all drugs in 1999. That advice led to major legal reform to allow people to carry up to 10 days worth of drugs without criminalisation (there can still be fines and other sanctions issued).

Using or possessing drugs is still illegal in Portugal, but there are no criminal penalties involved for users. Essentially, users can carry around about one gram of heroin, or two grams of cocaine without reproach.

A former family physician, Dr Goulão is also been the Chairman of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction and a delegate for the annual United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

He says that criminalisation wasn’t working in Portugal prior to 2000 so they decided that this way might help the country get its drug problem under control.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, the doctor said the current trends in Portugal are “quite positive” despite the economic hardships that much of the population are under.

“Even if we are facing some problems, now we think, looking back it was a good decision.”

However, he warned that decriminalisation is not a “silver bullet”.

“It is not magic,” he insisted, explaining that it was just one aspect of a variety of complex policies which looked at addiction, treatment and prevention.

He said his talk will focus on how Portugal got to where it today, while trying to help policymakers become more informed.

Students for Sensible Drug Policy Ireland has organised the events in Ireland with an “an aim to give a comparative analysis of policy internationally”, according to secretary Graham de Barra. 

“We want to look at how drug policy is evolving internationally. And ask, ‘Is there a better way?’”

He says that the group is just providing the medium for the discussion but has not yet drawn out any conclusions.

Emery takes the idea “a little further”, suggests de Barra. He advocates for licensed premises to sell drugs, a step that de Barra says could be “interesting to explore”.

Read: Teen cannabis-users ‘more likely to attempt suicide’ later in life

DailyEdge.ie: Man named Stoner arrested on marijuana charges

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