Caritas Malta, OASI Foundation and the Malta Association of Psychiatry have raised concerns about proposals for the legalisation of cannabis put forward by the government.
In a joint statement, the three organisations said they were concerned about the “fundamental change in the direction of more acceptance of the culture of cannabis use”.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Robert Abela revealed ambitious plans for legal changes to be implemented that would allow the possession of up to 7g of cannabis to no longer result in users being arrested or detained.
Those found to be in possession of between 7 and 28g won’t be subject to court proceedings, but can be fined between €50 and €100. Moreover, users will also be allowed to grow up to four plants at home, as long as it is not sold to third parties.
“In a democratic society, we respect dialogue and understand that politicians are faced with the views of different interest groups. The law, in the manner that it is being proposed, will be giving a louder voice to those who use cannabis liberally,” read the statement.
“The law, as proposed, reflects a lost battle against the culture of cannabis use and gives less protection to those who might suffer serious consequences as a result of cannabis use.”
These included individuals who were dependent on cannabis, adolescents, and those at risk of psychosis.
They said that should the proposals be accepted, Malta would need to deal with the increased “normalisation of cannabis” to the detriment of adolescents’ mental development.
According to a 2019 survey, 9.3% of the population has smoked cannabis, while roughly one-third claim to know someone who smokes.
The groups also said that the new limit for possession would result in traffickers selling cannabis at the indicated quantities so that “their runners are only exposed to an administrative fine if they are caught”.
Finally, they said that the new rules would make it more difficult for those with a cannabis dependency to benefit from a care plan since so far, this is only offered by the tribunal or Drug Offenders Rehabilitation Board, which those caught with up to 7g of cannabis would no longer need to appear before, should the proposals be implemented.
They also cited an increase in cannabis use and increased pressures on ogranisations offering help to drug addicts as cause for concern.
In addition to these concerns, they also pointed to what they described as unanswered questions, such as how the government will enforce the ban on public smoking or ensure that no cannabis use takes place in front of children in people’s homes.
The groups also questioned whether some of the proposals “went against the United Nations drugs convention”, how it would be ensured that users don’t smoke on the job and what testing would be carried out on people caught driving under the influence.
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