Opposition leader Bernard Grech has taken his strongest stance yet on cannabis reform, stating an upcoming bill should tackle how people can purchase the plant through legal means, but without giving an opinion on how this should be done.
Lovin Malta asked the PN for its position on cannabis reform after Reforms Minister Owen Bonnici announced that he intends to table a bill when Parliament reconvenes in October.
“The Nationalist Party is looking forward to having the opportunity in Parliament to discuss the Cannabis Bill which the government has promised since at least 2017,” a PN spokesperson said.
“The leader of the Opposition and Nationalist Party Bernard Grech believes that cannabis reform should first and foremost tackle how cannabis can be purchased. Otherwise, the relaxation of laws will simply strengthen the black market and still benefit organised crime.”
It didn’t state whether it has an opinion on how cannabis users will be able to access the plant while avoiding the black market.
The PN has yet to take a concrete stance on cannabis reform, opting out of a public consultation process on a White Paper the government published last March.
Instead, it set up a working group composed of MPs Claudio Grech, Claudette Buttigieg, Karl Gouder, Therese Comodini Cachia and Stephen Spiteri, PN political research president Martina Caruana, Team Start president Eve Borg Bonello and then MZPN president (now executive chairperson) Joseph Grech to discuss the issue.
Back in May, the PN said it will submit proposals “within days” but it failed to keep its promise.
The party has since appointed former Lovin Malta CEO Chris Peregin, who has advocated for cannabis legalisation and social clubs, as its chief strategist.
The White Paper proposes that people should be allowed to grow up to four cannabis plants at home and that users found in possession of up to 7g of weed will no longer be arrested or prosecuted, up from the current 3.5g limit.
Those found in possession of between 7 and 28g won’t be subject to court proceedings but will be subject to proceedings in front of a tribunal, where they can be fined between €50 and €100.
It also proposes the expungement of criminal records related to cannabis possession, the establishment of a Cannabis Authority and an unspecified legal avenue from which users will be able to purchase cannabis and seeds.
Prime Minister Robert Abela has said that the bill will ensure people will be able to buy cannabis and seeds from a legal source and said he’s keeping his options open in this regard.