Hours before Malta’s Parliament starts debating a landmark cannabis reform law, 22 organisations – mostly Church organisations but also some independent ones – have insisted the bill should include far more restrictions for proposed cannabis associations.
“The possibility of having cannabis clubs mushrooming in each town and village is a real one,” the religious groups warned published by the Church. “We are therefore appealing to government to put the draft bill on hold until a serious, independent and researched study is carried out about the social impact of the proposals in the bill.”
Besides describing the 500 club member cap as “excessive”, the religious groups also insisted on more restrictions for membership to prohibit people suffering from certain mental health issues from signing up.
“In this regard, the bill should require the need for a medical or psychological assessment prior to approval of membership,” they insisted.
Moreover, the Church groups called for specific safeguards to stop tourists becoming short-term members of cannabis associations, something they claimed would risk reputational damage to Malta’s tourism industry.
They also urged the government to keep a register of people who opt to grow weed at home (a maximum four plants per household), arguing that Uruguay has done something similar.
“How can this clause of the draft bill be regulated and controlled if the regulatory authority and government have no oversight over who is growing cannabis at home?” they asked.
In a similar vein to the Nationalist Party, the religious groups insisted that while they are against the criminalisation and stigmatisation of cannabis users, the proposed law will “normalise” cannabis use.
This, they claimed, will “directly or indirectly promote its use among the most vulnerable members of our society, particularly children and youth”.
Their full position paper can be read here.
Besides cannabis associations and home growing, the cannabis reform bill proposes that people will be able to carry up to seven grams of cannabis on their person with the police unable to arrest or interrogate them unless they have a reasonable suspicion that trafficking is involved.
A new Authority on the Responsible Use of Cannabis will be set up and people convicted of cannabis-related crimes that are no longer criminal will be able to get these details expunged from their criminal record.
The long-awaited parliamentary discussion on the bill is set to start at 4:30pm.
Photo: Archdiocese of Malta
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