A few days ago, Opposition leader Bernard Grech confidently claimed that the government never even published a white paper on cannabis reform.
“National consultation is a process whereby the government releases a white paper and asks people and NGOs for their opinion, not like what the government did with cannabis when it didn’t even release a white paper,” he said during an interview with ONE TV’s Colin Deguara.
It was a bizarre statement, seeing as the government had published a white paper on cannabis reform back in March, which proposed key changes such as allowing four cannabis plants to be grown per household and carrying up to 7 grams in public without facing a penalty.
However, a PN spokesperson told Lovin Malta that Grech’s point was that the white paper wasn’t complete because it didn’t include a draft law.
“While it promised legalisation, it said legalisation was not possible,” he said. “And then it also said that government would study how cannabis can be procured. A real white paper would have shown through a draft law how cannabis can be procured.”
This was a reference to a section in the white paper which notes that Malta signed three UN conventions in 1961, 1971 and 1988 which make it mandatory for states to criminalise the production, sale, and possession of cannabis for non-medicinal or scientific purposes.
“In the context of these treaties, therefore, the legalisation of cannabis is not permitted,” the white paper reads.
However, Prime Minister Robert Abela has pledged that an upcoming bill based on the white paper will propose legal avenues from which people will be able to buy the plant.
“We still need to reach a final decision, but in principle I believe we shouldn’t create a legal basis that incentivises people to resort to the black market,” he said earlier this month. “Doing so would go against the spirit of the law.”
Reforms Minister Owen Bonnici has said he is prioritising this bill and intends to table it when Parliament reconvenes next month.
Sharing a clip of Grech’s recent comments, Bonnici said it’s incredible that an aspiring Prime Minister doesn’t even know that the government launched a white paper on cannabis reform months ago.
“No wonder the PN didn’t even submit a single proposal during the consultation period over such an important law,” he said. “If the Opposition Leader doesn’t even know that a White Paper on cannabis reform was launched, how can he be expected to propose an idea?”
“While the Opposition is detached from reality and undermining known facts, the government will continue with its progressive agenda in favour of better legislation in several important sectors, including the cannabis sector.”
Should Malta legalise cannabis for personal use?