After implementing cannabis reform at home, Malta should seek to become a European trailblazer on the topic, Reforms Minister Owen Bonnici has said.
“Malta is pushing forward the idea of harm reduction in a very upfront and honest manner with everything written down in the law and I’d really like to see us become a trailblazer on this like we were on LGBT+ rights,” Bonnici said during an interview on Lovin Daily.
“Once we set everything up here, we can go overseas and ask why others don’t do this as well. We have to create a European debate because the war against drugs failed, certainly in terms of cannabis. With regards to other drugs, I’m a strong advocate of treatment and not imprisonment.”
Earlier this month, Bonnici published a bill proposing that people should be able to carry up to seven grams of cannabis on their person and grow up to four plants at home.
It also proposes the formation of cannabis associations, a concept popularised by Barcelona which allows organisations to grow and prepare the plant exclusively for their members. Bonnici said the bill will allow members to purchase cannabis from an association and smoke it at home, not on the association’s premises.
The minister said that the fact Malta is introducing a specific cannabis law sets it apart from other European countries which adopted a “tolerance model”, whereby police tolerate cannabis use despite the law not setting out clear parameters for the usage of the plant.
“Malta is proposing a much more honest deal and is more upfront,” he said.
“However, I think Europe must do something about it and it would be remarkable if the harm reduction approach was adopted on a European level.”
“I really believe in harm reduction. There’s a fascinating debate [on cannabis legalisation] going on in Germany right now and I’d love there to be a whole European debate on it. We have directives on everything so why not on this? Why can’t we make it possible for harm reduction to be the order of the day?”
Bonnici also called for a revisiting of old UN conventions, which have been ratified by Malta and adopted by the EU, and which make it mandatory for states to criminalise the production, sale, and possession of cannabis for non-medicinal or scientific purposes.
“The treaties forbid the legalisation and commercialisation of cannabis,” he noted. “People ask me why we aren’t allow businesses to run cannabis associations, but we can’t allow them to because there are international treaties.”
“Through this bill, we’re not going to be commercialising or selling cannabis. It’s harm reduction in a controlled environment with limits on how many members each association can have and how much cannabis each association can obtain.”
“I also think the international treaties need to be looked at again after all these years. Some were signed generations ago and I think it’s time to revisit them.”
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