I’m speaking of course about a rising trend of secret underground coffee shops, akin to what you might stumble across in Amsterdam or Coffee Cafes in Toronto.
We’re a progressive little city in recent times with landmark events including legalising gay marriage by popular vote and making waves on our staunchly conventional laws to legalise abortion. And it shows no signs of stopping with the recent bill passed to introduce cannabis for medicinal use.
The liberal fever spreading throughout our fair city seems to be gaining momentum, but some aren’t waiting around for full legitimacy or legality either.
They are simply making a stand to have cannabis available recreationally to punters across the city, regardless of the law. I’m speaking of course about a rising trend of secret underground coffee shops, akin to what you might stumble across in Amsterdam or Coffee Cafes in Toronto.
Of course, you can’t just simply walk in and blaze up in one of these establishments. It’s one of those things where you know a guy, who knows a woman who can put you in touch. You can imagine organisations and collectives of this nature are kept very much ‘under wraps’ – but once you’re in the circle, you’re in!
Curiosity getting the better of me (nothing new here), I went digging around to see what I could find and to gather a deeper insight into this bohemian movement. Several dead-end phone calls later – most of which just outright refusing to introduce a writer looking to do a piece in case of ruining the fun for everyone – I eventually struck gold.
An individual promised to bring me into one, on one condition. I’d go in under blindfold with a pledge to keep their identity anonymous. Now, I’m not all too fond of the idea of being led anywhere I can’t see but in a noble attempt to grace one of these cannabis parlours to satiate my intrigue, I guess it was worth the risk.
Meeting my contact outside of the grotesquely designed Central Bank on Dame Street, we spent a fleeting moment carrying out the usual formalities before they uttered, ‘Right, you ready then?’.
Smiling shyly towards my comrade, I ducked into a taxi, keeping close behind him.
As the door swung shut to a thump behind me, I was quickly tossed a small piece of cloth with elasticated strings on it. “Put that on you if you don’t mind. It’s not that I don’t believe you won’t reveal the location or anything, but it’s just a precaution.
“It’s a safe space and everyone is super friendly, honestly!” uttered my host.
“I wouldn’t dare disclose you or the location. You’ve nothing to worry about,” I reassured him.
What felt like a 30-minute drive transpired to be a mere five minutes. We were in fact still extremely central in the city! Being led by the hand and told to watch the steps, I was unmasked and welcomed into an old house, the sounds of the street fading away behind me.
Rather dimly lit but with the exception of the light escaping from underneath a door at the end of the hall, I was ordered to follow my host. The scent in the air was an unmistakable signature for the obvious aromas of where I was going.
Trying to tune my ears as we walked along the corridors, the murmurs of conversation taking place grew louder and louder. Hell, it seemed like there was a real crowd in here!
The doors opened, lashing my eyes with a whip of light that the previous blindfold hadn’t quite prepared my eyes for. Squinting in defence, I was surrounded by a group of people whom I have never met before – but all greeted me with smiles and welcoming gestures.
Some had yet to notice my presence but were happily laughing away, patting each other on the arms and making jokes I guess only they understood.
Nodding to the ‘barman’ and being instructed by his eyes to take a seat at the back, I parked up to take it all in. Having graced the halls only just moments ago, I would never have conjured up this image at all. The room around me was brightly dressed in a variety of lights and lamps, while the walls were garnished with vintage collections of antiques.
The room alone was enough to get my mind going without the passing fumes of marijuana tickling the base of my nostrils. A selection of smoking paraphernalia was strewn along the bar and having been to Amsterdam myself, this setup may as well have been airlifted and dropped straight in from there.
The only giveaway was the sounds of Irish accents billowing and swirling all around me!
Approaching the bar, a place where the fine fellow behind this operation was stationed, I was met with less of a ‘What would you like?’ sort of attitude, but more along the lines of ‘How are you keeping?’.
Friendly, welcoming and amazing hospitality. “So what led you to create this fine establishment? Are you trying to make a political statement or start a movement of some sort?” I questioned bluntly. “No, not really. That movement is well under way and I think it’s great. It’s only a matter of time really until we follow in the steps of Portugal, Spain, Holland, the US or Canada. This is more to fill the demand of my friends and colleagues who have been talking about something like this for a long time now,” he replied.
“Also, it still bewilders me that this hasn’t been legalised fully already. I mean look around you. I worked in bars for a long time and on more than one occasion I was spat at, shouted at, things thrown at me and even more times, I was left cleaning up sick, blood and broken glass after people.
“It was tough at times and I had to put up with a hell of a lot. If a drug was on the market tomorrow that made you aggressive, lose balance, caused fights, gave you a banging head the next day, and research proved it was harmful to your organs, you can be pretty sure it would be made illegal instantly.
“That’s booze for ya! The most anyone will attack in here is a cheese sandwich! No-one causes anyone any harm, this is a completely safe space for them and it’s social,” he explained.
People came, people left and some stayed, but they all showed the utmost respect to the owner and each other. Paid what they were owed, respected the rules of the house and made their way home.
Plucking up the courage, I questioned: “Do you think you will ever get caught?” to which he replied, “Anything is possible, but we’re moving towards a society that is beginning to accept it and who knows, maybe it will be legal by then!
“It’s simply just a matter of time until the public opinion sways into a positive light. Campaigns, marches, research and activists are at it around the clock and people are beginning to take notice.”
Having gained insight into the operation and the people behind it, I guess we may not have long to wait until Ireland slides to a position where its recreational use will be a widely accepted social norm.
Finishing my snacks and bidding farewell to this group of wonderful people, I left blindfolded with my host once more feeling that Ireland is moving in a very progressive direction and it’s an exciting time to be alive to witness it unfold.