INDEPENDENT TD Luke 'Ming' Flanagan has defended his controversial views on legalising cannabis amid strong criticism from irate voters in his constituency.
After revealing he had taken cocaine, acid and ecstasy in the past, the TD has told of plans to set up an Irish branch of the US advocacy group Norml, which works to campaign to change the laws on drugs.
Mr Flanagan yesterday insisted it was time for an open debate on legalising cannabis.
"At the end of the day I am a public representative and I have to look at issues and make conclusions from the evidence that I see," said the TD after he went on to RTE's 'Liveline'.
"If you look at what has happened in Washington and Colorado where they've legalised cannabis, surely at least it is time for a debate."
The TD said branches of Norml had been set up in many countries around the world and had been involved in the campaign in Washington.
"I've made my arguments on numerous occasions before why I think it would be a good idea from the point of view of the financial aspects and the stress it puts on the criminal justice system," he said.
"Norml wants to tax and regulate the use of cannabis."
Mr Flanagan said he was not telling people to go out and use cannabis but he simply did not see the "benefit" of giving them a criminal record if they did.