New Reforms Minister Owen Bonnici is skeptical of proposals to decriminalise cannabis possession up to 7g and allow people to grow up to four plants at home as envisaged in a government White Paper, the president of Malta’s leading cannabis lobby group has warned.
Interviewed on Lovin Daily, Andrew Bonello said ReLeaf held a number of meetings with Bonnici since his appointment last July and that the minister intends to table a Bill when Parliament reconvenes in October.
However, he said the minister wasn’t “too convinced” of the White Paper’s proposal to increase the limit for adult possession for personal use from 3.5g to 7g.
“We wanted to make sure that [Bonnici] carried on from where we left off and that he saw things like his predecessor Rosianne Cutajar, who did some very good work for the cause, did,” Bonello said.
“Owen Bonnici had a lot of questions, mainly about cultivation and possession amounts – maybe he’s not too convinced about them. If you look at all the feedback [received through the public consultation], you can more or less gauge that other NGOs and stakeholders weren’t happy with the amount of grams that one won’t be criminalised for.”
Bonello noted that a number of Maltese NGOs “say they’re in favour of decriminalisation but then say possession of more than 7g should still be criminalised, which doesn’t really make sense”.
“Cutajar was very passionate about the cause and understood that it’s a human rights issue,” Bonello continued. “It’s not a gift for cannabis consumers to tell them they won’t be arrested or criminalised for their own self-supply or for growing at home.”
However, Bonello continued to show faith in Bonello, saying: “I think Bonnici is very much in favour of going forward with what the White Paper proposes and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes out in the bill. We expect it to be tabled by October first thing.”
Announced last March, the cannabis reform 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.
Bonello said that while he understands the cannabis community’s frustration at the prospects of the White Paper being scaled down, they should realise that Malta’s starting point was that of one of the “most harshly prohibitionist countries in Europe”.
“I understand the community saying ‘just regulate it already’, but we must accept that what was proposed in the White Paper is a big deal.”
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