Amid the recent legalisation of medicinal cannabis, there have been calls for a removal of the ban on recreational use. Mary Meadbh Park looks at the state of the market in Dublin.
BOB Marley famously said that: “herb is the healing of the nation, alcohol is the destruction.” Since his day, cannabis has risen in popularity worldwide, including in Ireland. The growing increase of users has created a thriving market for the plant, particularly in Dublin.
It is seldom now that a walk around the city centre on a weekend night will not bring up that all-too-familiar aroma at least once. This, of course, begs the question: “who is smoking it?” and most importantly, “where did they get it?”
It will come as a surprise to few people that cannabis is illegal in Ireland. A request for some devil’s lettuce at the local newsagents will quickly be followed by a polite request to leave. It is only found on the black market, which means that the prices and quality of the substance are not controlled.
“If you ask ten people on the street, at least one or two would sort something out”
This causes a problem for many young smokers with little money and who are looking for a good time, as opposed to a very paranoid or expensive time. The price of cannabis in Dublin has actually risen slightly in recent years and is double the price that you would expect to pay for the same quantity in other parts of Europe such as places like Berlin, Spain, the UK, Portugal, Croatia and Amsterdam.
In Dublin, the average price for a little over a gram is €25 compared to €10 in most other places in Europe, which makes us one of the most expensive cities in Europe for smoking. The price is higher in other cities and counties around Ireland.
“Justin” is a one-time cannabis dealer from Dublin. Asked how easy it was to get cannabis in Dublin he replied, “If you ask ten people on the street, at least one or two would [be able to] sort something out”. He also commented on the quality of the strains of weed in Dublin. “Irish quality is normally very high,” says Justin. “In every country you have good and bad growers, but we have very good grow shops that advise growers on the best (equipment) to use.”
“Irish quality is normally very high”
“Owen”, a cannabis user, agrees with Justin, saying that the quality of Irish cannabis is “good” and said it was “better than a lot of places outside of Europe such as South America”. The quality of the cannabis would, however, depend on the trustworthiness of the source of the drug and the dealers involved in the distribution. As with everything on the black market, it is very easy to be manipulated into buying a product that is of bad or even dangerous quality at the most and to be scammed into paying more money than one should, at the least.
“Again, being scammed comes down to who you know. If you know good people who you regularly buy from, then you’re normally OK. As for street dealers – it’s the luck of the draw! If you know what you’re looking for you should be fine, but if you’re inexperienced you may be unlucky,” says Justin.
“If you know good people who you regularly buy from, then you’re normally OK”
Owen agrees with the idea that knowing who you’re buying from is important to ensure a clean product for a fair price, and says he has been lucky enough to have only smoked high quality cannabis so far. However, the quality of the cannabis in Ireland has suffered over the last few decades. Older smokers claim that the level of THC in cannabis has risen to such an extent that they suffer extreme paranoia and anxiety from smoking the cannabis that is around now, compared to the cannabis available twenty or thirty years ago.
There has also been a growing trend in dealers spraying weed with additives to increase the weight, including with sugar, contaminants and even glass. It is also nearly impossible to weigh cannabis without a specific scales, and even after being sold short, attempting to get a refund from a dealer is in most cases next to impossible and at your own peril.
“If you’re nice to the Garda, they normally show you some grace but if you’re cheeky then they’ll normally get you”
As for law enforcement, it is a lot easier to get away with having a small amount for personal use than it is with any other kind of drug in Ireland. “I’ve had several Gards take my weed and not charge me, nearly all of them say they have better things to do than deal with our kind,” says Justin.
However, it depends on the personality of the Garda and the type of interaction involved as it is not uncommon for Gardaí to bring a person to court for even half a gram. “If you’re nice to the Garda, they normally show you some grace but if you’re cheeky then they’ll normally get you, not always but sometimes you get unlucky,” explains Justin.
*All names have been changed at the request of the interviewees.