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D'Arcy's dope smoking days; EXCLUSIVE: IRISH DJ CALLS FOR CHANGE IN DRUG LAWS.

Byline: STEPHEN MAGUIRE

TV AND RADIO celebrity Ray D'Arcy has admitted that he used cannabis and believes it should be decriminalised in Ireland.

In an exclusive interview with Irish Sunday People the clean-cut star said the only way to beat ruthless drug pushers was to take the power out of their hands.

And the only way to do this was to relax the drug laws, he said.

The former children's telly celebrity joins a growing list of famous faces calling for Ireland to follow Britain's lead and relax the laws on cannabis.

Pressure was growing yesterday on Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to follow the example set by the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair.

However the Fianna Fail leader has said that as long as he is leader of the country, the drug will never be allowed to be smoked freely on the streets of Ireland.

The country is now divided on whether or not to allow the drug to be sold over the counter.

Meanwhile heart-throb D'Arcy, best known for fronting children's TV show The Den, will shock fans with his frank views on the taboo subject.

"I have smoked cannabis a few times - but I never inhaled.

"For me it's a personal choice and I'm not going to get into whether it's a good thing or bad thing.

"I haven't smoked it for a while now but I certainly wouldn't look down my nose at someone who was smoking it at a party or whatever.

"But yes I have smoked it a few times and I'm okay with it.

"The only problem I have is when people constantly laugh while taking it even at something that's not funny," said the 37-year-old.

Stressing that he was generally anti-drugs, D'Arcy told Irish Sunday People he believed cannabis was a special case.

"I am very anti-drugs and always have been. I don't even smoke cigarettes.

"I used to think that cannabis might be a gateway drug but I have changed my mind on that now.

"I think that if people are punished for taking cannabis then they will say 'What the hell, I might as well try something else'.

"Whereas if they are happy just taking cannabis for pleasure then I believe that the majority of them at least will stay with it," he said.

Despite his frank views on the matter, D'Arcy said he does not think that the Government will relax the laws on cannabis in the near future.

"I don't think that will happen - I basically think that they would be scared of taking such a big step.

"However I do think that eventually younger people's views will come through and that our more moderate and tolerant views will be passed onto our children.

"I think eventually the laws will be relaxed.

"And, once it is decriminalised, I believe we will see some very positive things happening," he said.

D'Arcy first made his astonishing admission during a debate on the legalisation of cannabis on his popular Today FM radio show.

However a source at Today FM said there had been no negative feedback despite their star presenter's admission of drug-taking.

"Most people who listen to Ray's morning show are pretty mature and it's no big deal for them that he smoked cannabis a few times.

"Ray's mixture of good music, quizzes and light-hearted stories is exactly what many people want mid-morning.

"The show is one of the most popular on the airwaves and he has a great and loyal listenership.

"Ray is one of the genuinely nice guys in radio and his admission that he smoked some cannabis is no big deal to us.

"As far as the station is concerned what he does in his own time is his own business," said the source.

Rise of radio's golden boy

RAY D'Arcy is now in his second season with the Abbey Street station after leaving RTE in a reputed E200,000 a year deal.

He has dated fellow RTE celebrity Geri Maye for over seven years and a year ago the couple finally announced their engagement.

These days Ray says he prefers to stay at home at their Sandyford pad and cook dinner instead of hitting clubs.

"Geri doesn't drink so most of the time we have friends around to dinner.

"I love to cook and I'm really comfortable in the kitchen - I think I got it from my dad who was a great cook.

"These days if I find myself in a disco I find myself saying 'What the hell am I doing here?'," he said.

Despite becoming a huge success at Today FM, Ray says his heart will always be in television.

"I am delighted with the way things are going at Today FM - there is a great team spirit here and it's like one long party.

"But I have to say that I have always loved working on TV. And if the right offer came along I would have to consider it," he admitted.

CAPTION(S):

JOINT DECISION: Bertie refuses to relax the law like Blair's government has; FIGHT AGAINST CANNABIS: Gardai continue seizures but Ray believes that their time could be better spent; PUFF D'ARCY: How Ray might have looked 'not inhaling'
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Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Jul 21, 2002
Words:867
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