Cork Activist Steps Up Campaign

Martin Condon Photo: Wiki Commons

The Northsider, who has a degree in Herbal Sciences, is willing to do jail time in his fight against drug prohibition

The protester who recently planted six cannabis plants on Pope’s Quay that were removed by Gardai says that he won’t be deterred from planting more – and stepping up his campaign against drug prohibition.

For Martin Condon, a Northsider who teaches Thai boxing and a has degree in Herbal Sciences, the passion for cannabis activism began when he himself was caught with €20 euros of hash at seventeen.

“I was a juvenile at the time but they didn’t summons me until I was eighteen, so I was tried as an adult,” Martin said.

“For my parents, it was more about having guards call to the house and word spread around the community than me using cannabis, the authorities created a divide between me and my family, and I felt lonely, isolated, and at times suicidal because of it,” Martin explained.

The judge who heard Martin’s case a year later threw it out and told Gardai that it could have been dealt with on the side of the street, but he feels that he became a target for Gardai afterwards.

“I must have been stopped and searched up to 100 times between 17 and 21, I was made to feel like I was filth by a different judge,” he said.

Martin turned towards social rights activism, but he says that many young kids in Cork who get criminal records for drug possession early in life simply “double down and go deeper into that world, because you are made to feel that that’s all you are good for.”

The 31-year-old has faced consequences for his cannabis use and his protest campaign against the prohibition of the drug.

He spent five days in Cork prison for refusing to pay fines out of protest, and he had to remove himself from a job he had soccer coaching Northside kids in his local community.

“I got a court summons and knew that I wouldn’t pass the garda vetting to work with kids so I took myself out of the role, even though I loved working with the nursery kids, I showed up on time, and I put a lot of effort into preparing for the classes,” Martin said.

Martin challenges the stereotypes around Cannabis users as lazy irresponsible people and points out that society doesn’t treat casual drinkers the same way.

“If we were sat here together right now having a pint instead of a coffee, I wouldn’t presume that you were going to turn up to work drunk tomorrow and to be able to function, so why do we do that to cannabis users time and time again?” he asked.

Martin is extremely committed to his activism and has even brought cannabis plants into a Gardai station in Cork and turned himself in.

“They were taken aback, and one guard did say we could raid your house right now and I said go ahead, do you really think I’d be silly enough to have stuff growing in my house?

“The point I am trying to make is that this is a waste of the authorities’ time,” Martin said.

Martin is already planning to plant more cannabis plants around Cork city, and wants to make a documentary about how easy it is to acquire drugs on the streets of Cork city.

He says he believes that Cork city would be a better place if cannabis was not prohibited and if drugs were regulated by the government rather than being criminalised.

“For one, the system we have in place at the moment only serves to victimise the most vulnerable people in our society, users and low-level drug dealers, they are victimised by organised crime groups, and criminalised by the authorities – there’s nowhere for them to turn.

“Secondly, it’s patients who need medical cannabis for chronic pain conditions and other severe conditions that are suffering – research around cannabis is totally cordoned off, and the drug could be used to really help people in need,” Martin argued.

The activist says that he is prepared to spend more time in jail and that he will not stop his campaign until the government realises that the only role they should have in people’s drug use is through “education, regulation, and ensuring the quality of supply, much like they do with alcohol.”

Martin further believes that the three-strike model we have in place only benefits middle-class people “like Leo Varadkar having a joint in college,” rather than young people on the Northside of Cork city.

“Take the seventeen-year-old in his hoodie who might be stopped three times in one day and he’s looking at a criminal record, most of these kids don’t have bad intentions, they are under-educated, they have a lack of opportunities, they are poor and they have no guidance.

“When we criminalise them rather than offering alternatives and reaching out, we leave a window open for organised criminals to be the ones who give them guidance, and that’s exactly what is happening in this city right now,” he said.