Introducing University College Dublin

This is an interview with Aisling Hudson ’20 & the new SSDP University College Dublin team.

Why did you want to get involved/what made you decide to start a chapter?

I am Aisling Hudson ’20, a final year undergraduate, mature student, studying social policy and sociology. I’m very young at heart. My main interest is in cannabis reform, although I see sense in realistic policy for all drugs. When I realised the SSDP UCD chapter was not active, I felt compelled to act, it was not difficult to find supporters. I am politically active and intend to lobby for legislative reform in 2021 for the end of cannabis prohibition. I think change will come from an organised campaign that puts pressure on the government for structural change.

People have no other choice but to break the law and to treat themselves with street cannabis.

Aisling Hudson ’20

The War on Drugs in Ireland – What needs to change?

The war on drugs is affecting every man, woman, and child on this island. One of the most horrendous aspects of the war on drugs in Ireland, is the continued unavailability of cannabis. Adults, wanting to take full responsibility for their own life choices, are being identified as criminals and taking up valuable space in our prisons. People have no other choice but to break the law and to treat themselves with street cannabis. They live from day to day not knowing if they will have medication tomorrow. If they do have it, the strain remains a mystery, and the cost is extortionate. 

For people with a licence, the price is still extortionate, and the government expects them to abuse the planet, by taking a flight to go to the chemist. The range of strains available through the Medical Cannabis Access Programme (MCAP) is minimal and often ineffective, so street cannabis is still the only option for a lot of licence holders, not that there are many licence holders. Street cannabis brings its own problems to the discussion, finding a reliable, trustworthy dealer with good supply is not easy, and can be a terrifying experience.

There are good reasons for paranoia, the least of them are side effects of cannabis. To mention a few, supply insecurity, lack of financial resources, raid-related PTSD, and many others. Our children and young adults are using street cannabis to ease their anxiety and depression. This supply is overpriced and unregulated and of unknown strength or origin. 

Prohibition continues to fail society. Prohibiting a substance that brings so much relief to so many, while doing so little harm to so few is the crime. Remaining obedient to laws with such low levels of efficacy is challenging. Good people are being framed as criminals, the irregularity of supply is causing dosing issues, and aggravating illnesses, and the over-priced product is causing serious debts and punishment beatings. This is the reality of the state of the war on drugs in Ireland today, and that is just relating to cannabis.

The Team So Far…

Hi, my name is Carla Gummerson ’20, my academic background is in public policy. My personal journey has led me to believe that sensible drugs policy is the only way forward. The stigma that has followed many people is something that can be changed through policy, the stigma is created through poor policy and then exacerbated through the justice system, leading to social exclusion and social isolation, this is something I would love to combat.

Peer education, I feel, is one of the main ways to get this information across to students, through knowledge and education students can have a great understanding of their choices. This is one of the reasons for my joining of the chapter.  

Carla Gummerson ’20

I’m Anastasija Simiceva ’20, and I am on a multi-disciplinary degree in Education, Youth and Community studies. I feel strongly about safe drug policy and I believe in honest and direct education. We need frank education that gives the knowledge necessary to navigate this crazy world. Telling young people not to do drugs has never worked, and as the range of drugs out there is growing, along with accessibility, I think we need to turn this ship around. We need to steer society away from harmful addictive habits, while also giving adults agency to make their own life choices.

We need frank education that gives the knowledge necessary to navigate this crazy world.

Anastasija Simiceva ’20

The Plan For Next Semester

We have lots of ideas. We decided to focus mainly on cannabis this year, we plan to run a cannabis-related workshop, hold regular zoom ‘420 coffeeshop’ meetings, a safe space where people can chat with other like-minded people. 

We have ideas about some 420 activities, maybe a discussion panel, some live acts, 420 table themed table quiz, 

And we want to add to, and support educational opportunities already in the pipeline in UCD, relating to cannabis. We hope to run some training for anyone interested in working with young people who use drugs.

Medium-Term Goals

I hope we can attract an extensive membership, and build on the previous UCD, SSDP chapter’s successes. I would love to see our chapter contribute to research on cannabis use in Ireland. In our first SSDP meeting, we spoke about establishing a qualitative and quantitative record of these dark days in our country, where people are afraid to tell their stories for fear of arrest, or stigma, or loss of employment. We might start an ‘anecdotal archive’ for that. Another idea is a ‘Sentencing Media Watch’. This idea comes from a 2019 publication from Women’s Aide which attempted to uncover statistics relating to domestic violence which are lacking in the public domain. There are so many unfortunate victims of the ‘war on drugs’ and the state does not publish data in any detail or regularity on sentencing. Incarceration is not economical, effective, or fair for people who do no harm to others. It has been seen in research to lead to more harm.

Longer-Term Goals

Our chapter hopes to make an impression on Irish social policy by working with all cannabis campaigners across the full spectrum to unite cannabis activists. We aim to encourage the University’s role, and brave initiative, supporting cannabis enlightenment