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WATCH: PN MP Defends Weed Prohibitionist Stance And Warns Law Will Make It Harder For Police To Prosecute

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Nationalist MP Claudette Buttigieg has stood up for her party’s prohibitionist stance on cannabis reform, warning that the bill will make life harder for the police while at the same time insisting that she doesn’t want to criminalise users.

During a debate with Reform Minister Owen Bonnici on 103 Malta’s Heart, Buttigieg argued that cannabis was already decriminalised by virtue of the 2015 drug reform law and that people no longer get sent to prison for simple possession.

“We aren’t against the personal use of cannabis but this is already allowed,” she claimed. “However, you can’t suddenly go for legalisation and normalisation of drug use. We are in touch with reality but you can’t do things rashly.”

Buttigieg conveniently didn’t mention the other side of the coin, for while the 2015 law has indeed stopped the possibility of people getting jailed for simple possession, it still punishes cannabis users.

Police are empowered to arrest people caught with small quantities of cannabis and detain them for up to 48 hours to try and find out who sold them the plant. Cannabis users can also face legal proceedings in front of a drug tribunal, which can fine them and order them to receive treatment to kick the habit. 

This has led to scenes such as the arrest of a young Maltese couple earlier this year, after police found them smoking a joint in their hotel room during Valentine’s Day weekend.

Despite insisting that she doesn’t want to criminalise cannabis users, Buttigieg criticised the aspect of the bill which states police can only detain someone caught with under 7g of cannabis if they have a “reasonable suspicion” of trafficking or dealing.

“This law will give the police huge problems because it’s so complicated for them to charge people on the grounds of reasonable suspicion,” she warned.

Police published this photo after arresting a young couple for smoking a joint earlier this year

Police published this photo after arresting a young couple for smoking a joint earlier this year

“So you agree with people being criminalised then?” Bonnici asked.

“No, not all, because it’s already decriminalised,” Buttigieg responded.

The PN MP also sought to sensationalise the issue further by warning it will give children easy access to the plant. This is because the bill allows people to grow up to four cannabis plants at home, but specifically out of reach of children or view of the general public. 

“Is this the Malta we want for our children?” Buttigieg cried out. “Do we want to normalise it to the point where children will be at home with four plants and they’re told it’s just a normal plant that their parents will smoke? Is this the Malta we want for our children?”

Bonnici counter-argued that the bill will deal a huge blow to the black market, as it will grant cannabis users regularised channels from where to buy the plant.

“This is a harm-reduction measure,” she said. “People are already smoking weed at home but to do this, they must come in contact with criminality, either by growing cannabis illegally or by buying from traffickers.”

“They’ll now be given a regularised environment, will no longer be treated like criminals, and there will be controls on product quality. If we do nothing, the black market will reign.”

Do you agree with the proposed bill? 

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Tim is interested in the rapid evolution of human society brought about by technological advances. He’s passionate about justice, human rights and cutting-edge political debates. You can follow him on Twitter at @timdiacono or reach out to him at [email protected]

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