Martin Condon is the chapter leader of Cork Institute of Technology SSDP and one of our most active student leaders in Ireland. He was recently denied the opportunity to travel overseas for SSDP2016 and would like to share his story with his peers. My name is Martin Condon, 26 years old, father of two daughters, a full-time student & activist. Over the last number of years, I have been victimised in a number of ways by the War on Drugs. The latest of these incidents has denied me the opportunity to travel to the US for SSDP 2016 and UNGASS due to a number of convictions for possession of cannabis (none of which exceeded €50 of value). I now have to supply numerous files from local gardai and courts about my convictions and then plead my case with a counsellor at the US embassy in Dublin just to have my case referred to homeland security to be considered for a waiver of my denial of authorization to travel. Once referred to homeland security it’s expected to take up to 6 months for processing with no chance of speeding up the process for any reason. Altogether it would take over 7 months to complete all this plus the added expense of the files from the courts which will cost €120 on top of the €160 for the appointment at the US embassy for the visa. I cannot head on the trip to the SSDP conference on Friday 15th of April and the flights which have been paid for now go to waste (€600+ down the drain). This also affected me in other ways, ways in which I do not feel totally comfortable talking about with people . I battle with myself over the decisions I have made which landed me in this position. I begin to wish I never consumed cannabis or wishing that when I did try it I hated it and never tried it again. Wishing that I could just be like others and live a drug-free life or just consume the drugs deemed acceptable by society (alcohol, tobacco, prescription drugs). These are things I cannot change. When I tried cannabis for the first time I enjoyed it and continued to consume it since. I was consuming cannabis for almost 2 years when I was first stopped by the law at the age of 17. I had a little bit of hash which I ended up getting summoned to court over and was tried as an adult because I was close enough to 18. This caused me to worry but I really felt like I had done nothing wrong, which I stated to the Judge myself as I didn’t get a solicitor (Lawyer). Luckily, that case was struck out and all my worry was over until I was caught again with cannabis. I paid over €2000 euro in “donations” to charity to keep my name clean of convictions, the largest of these “donations” being €400. Eventually, I decided I was not participating in this game any longer as I really believed what I was doing was not wrong and did not deserve a criminal punishment. Thus, I began my SSDP chapter at Cork Institute of Technology to fight for myself and others who need these laws changed. Every time I was stopped by gardai, summonsed to court, and went to court, it was followed by this battle against myself. This was a heavy weight on me; with my family also against me, I really felt isolated with few people to talk to about how I feel. Knowing that talking to people was not going to get things changed was also a barrier which put me at risk, as in this battle I would be hating on myself, weakening my emotional state to the point of wanting to just give up on life as it gets hard to go on living in such a helpless situation. Luckily I never followed through on any of those moments of madness but instead channelled that energy into campaigning for these laws to be changed. I got the strength to carry on from my kids as they are growing up and will one day have to take on the world, and when they do, I hope it’s not such a bad world as it is now. The war on drugs has created more victims than the drugs themselves and this needs to be addressed ASAP before more lives are lost.
Martin Condon, CIT SSDP chapter leader, with his two daughters.