On Thursday 5th March, a student-wide referendum on the legalization of cannabis will take place at NUIG (the National University of Ireland, Galway). What this will do is mandate the NUI Galway Students’ Union to actively campaign for legalization along with the benefit of generating media attention and discussions surrounding the reform of cannabis laws.
It could also encourage other SSDP chapters in Irish universities to push similar efforts, and if that happens, would put us in a strong position to push for Ireland’s national representative body for university and college students, the USI (Union of Student in Ireland) to actively campaign in favour of legalization too. The USI have a good position in terms of ability to lobby the national government, and having them on our side can only be a good thing. These types of referenda are common place in Irish universities with marriage equality and abortion the two most common issues that have appeared on ballot’s across the country, however this is the first time a vote on cannabis will take place.
The move comes following the NUIG SSDP chapter’s success collecting 541 signatures from students at the university in order for the motion to qualify for the ballot. NUIG SSDP will be advocating for a Yes vote, to support the legalization and regulation of cannabis for adults age 18 and over.
A victory here will not mean marijuana is legal in NUI Galway; Ireland is a unitary state with a single national police force and judicial system, and therefore the only way for us to change the law is through the national parliament, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.
We have reason to be optimistic that this referendum will be a success, because progressive ideas tend to be successful in these referenda. NUI Galway’s most recent referendum, which took place in March 2014, was on the issue of marriage equality and resulted in an incredible 95% of voters backing the legalization of same-sex marriage.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be advocating for a vote in favour of legalization through canvassing students, addressing student groups, postering around campus, organizing talks on campus and running a social media campaign. I’m really looking forward to engaging with the wider student-body on this issue as I think this referendum result will be a good indicator as to what way students and young people in general in Ireland are leaning on this issue.
Check out our campaign page on Facebook to keep up to date with what’s happening; facebook.com/VoteYesNUIG
If you are an NUIG student, make sure you get out and vote YES on Thursday 5th March!