Veteran socialist campaigner Eamonn McCann has reaffirmed his support for the decriminalisation of cannabis, following a rally in Londonderry.
Activists openly consumed cannabis at the Guildhall Square rally in the city centre on Thursday.
Among those in attendance was the People Before Profit campaigner, who said a more “rational” approach to cannabis was required.
Following the protest, Mr McCann told the News Letter: “I have been a campaigner for the legalisation of cannabis for many, many years. I am old enough to have been around in 1967 when there was a campaign launched in London with a full page ad in the Times newspaper signed by, among others, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Jonathan Aiken the Tory MP and many others from the arts and from politics.
“I remember well the opening of that when it was read out at a rally in Hyde Park – ‘the law against cannabis is immoral in principle and unworkable in practice’. I think the truth of that shines through down through the last 50 years from 1967 until now.
“At a time when we are reading daily about absolute tragedies to do with the taking of drugs, with young people taking drugs that they know nothing about, in the absence of counselling services, any sort of real education, people are not looking at the facts.
“The fact of the matter is that, already in Northern Ireland we have had 10 deaths this year – 10 deaths put down to misuse of prescription drugs.
“What has to happen for people to agree for people to look rationally at this, to look at the evidence? To examine the example of Portugal, of Oregon, of Argentina, of California, of Colorado, of the many states in the USA and the many countries around the world which have decriminalised.
“People should ask themselves, if it’s been more than 10 years since Portugal decriminalised, has Portugal gone to the dogs? Has Colorado gone to the dogs? You can bet your bottom dollar that if young people were suffering negative effects from the legalisation that it would be on the front pages. Right-wing politicians everywhere would be pointing and saying ‘look what happens’. They are afraid to look at decriminalising drugs.”
The veteran campaigner continued: “Cannabis is not addictive. The statistics on deaths from cannabis anywhere on this island are nil, zero, zilch, none. Compare that to alcohol, compare that to tobacco, compare that to prescription drugs, diazepam and all the rest of it. Compare it to heroin. Cannabis – no deaths. Why won’t people talk rationally and base this on evidence. There is a world of evidence out there.
“I brought this up at Stormont during my brief period of time there that cannabis should be legalised. I was greeted with grins, sneers and anger, with the exception of the Greens and Gerry Carroll. I think we have to plant the flag and we have to say it ‘legalise cannabis’.”
Regarding the rally in Londonderry, Mr McCann said: “I was delighted to be there and I was very pleased that there were young, articulate, sensible people there in Guildhall Square. If you were to walk across the same place, Guildhall Square, at the weekend you would see young people out of their heads on drugs. You will see them fighting, lying on the ground, in a dreadful state altogether. What drug? Alcohol.”