weeded out | 

Clare man facing jail-time for ‘smoking a few joints’ goes on hunger strike

"I will be starving in Ennis Circuit Court,” he told The Sunday World. “I don’t know what else to do.”

John O'Regan (59) is facing jail-time for a series of cannabis offences

Maeve McTaggartSunday World

A Clare man facing prison for possession of cannabis is going on hunger-strike in a last-ditch attempt to dodge jail.

John O’Regan (59) is lowering his food intake this week before going on hunger strike ahead of his sentencing on March 9.

"I will be starving in Ennis Circuit Court,” he told The Sunday World. “I don’t know what else to do. I know that it’s far-fetched and some people might think it’s a bit extreme, but no one should be going to prison for smoking a few joints.

"There are worse injustices in the world than John O’Regan from Kilkee not going to prison.”

It wasn’t until his 50s that John began to have run-ins with the gardaí, admitting he has been arrested on numerous occasions and his West Clare flat has been raided “between half a dozen and a dozen times.”

The first came when officers made a follow-up call to John’s door after he was pushed off his bike.

He was reluctant to let them in, with gardaí becoming suspicious and later returning to find John’s cannabis plants.

The man has repeatedly appeared in the District Court, and is now facing two more bouts in the Circuit Court that threaten jail-time.

"I had a flag with a cannabis leaf on it hanging from my window for awhile,” John said. “If I was a drug dealer, why would I do that?”

He claims his cannabis plants are only grown for his personal use, and any dealing charge tacked onto his “three or four” previous cultivation and possession charges were unfounded.

"I can’t just go to prison for years over smoking cannabis? This is all I have left to do. I have contacted the politicians, I have tried the online petitions, I have tried pleading with the gardaí and judges but they’re just following the law.

"The only thing that can help now is an immediate law change. The politicians in the Dáil.

"I know it’s unlikely. But there is not much else for me to do. I’m at a loss for words. This day next week could be my first in Limerick Prison.”

John slammed current legislation around cannabis, believing the drug should be legalised.

The Clare man lived in Holland for years, and his first purchase of illegal drugs came when he arrived back in Ireland.

"When I was buying cannabis in Holland it was safe. I never knew where to get other drugs like acid in Holland. When I came back to Ireland, you are dealing with criminals, cannabis was surrounded by other drugs.”

John argues there are health benefits to cannabis and it is a drug that is "not harming anyone.”

He said he grows the plants himself and “can’t even remember” the last time he would have purchased cannabis illegally.

He believes if it and other drugs were legal, it would allow people struggling with drug-use to access help easier, without fear of the law.

The 59-year-old lives alone and likes to keep to himself, he said. He has had experience with homelessness in the past but is now studying a software computing course.

"There is no harm in what I’m doing. I could go to prison for years. It’s only a matter for the Dáil.”

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