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WATCH: Robert Abela Explains Why, As A Father, He’s In Favour Of New Weed Law 

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Prime Minister Robert Abela has sought to dispel fears that Malta’s upcoming cannabis reform will somehow imperil children, arguing that he would rather his daughter grow up under the proposed regime than the current one.

“As a parent of a young child, I can say hand on heart and with a sense of responsibility that I believe this legal development is necessary,” Abela said in Parliament this evening as the House continued to debate the major proposed reform.

He urged concerned parents to place themselves in the shoes of the hundreds of parents whose children have been dragged through the justice system after police found them smoking a joint.

“Would you rather have a firm regulatory regime that disincentivises them from using cannabis but which doesn’t treat them like criminals if they get caught smoking it? Or would you rather we leave it as it is? As a parent, I would clearly rather have a firm legislative framework than take the easy way out and leave everything as it is.”

“Do you want your children to pass through that Calvary? I’ve lived this experience as a lawyer and it’s a traumatic experience that no child or parent should pass through.”

“There’s the initial trauma of arrest, the waiting period until you receive a citation, the weeks and months between that moment and the start of the case, the constant court deferrals and the awaiting of the sentence.”

“Even when you get sentenced, you don’t know what the consequences will be – maybe nothing, maybe you’ll realise a year later when you change jobs or try and find your first job.”

Abela drew extensively on his personal experiences as a lawyer representing people whose futures were suddenly flung into doubt because they were caught smoking a joint.    

“I’ve been to so many courtrooms and seen so many people in tears because the magistrate warned them they have a choice and that they’ll be sentenced to prison for six months if they plead guilty,” he said. “You can’t be insensitive to these realities.”

Following the 2015 drug reform law, people found with 3.5g or less of cannabis are no longer subjected to criminal proceedings but must appear in front of a tribunal, that has the power to fine them.

Police can also arrest them, detain them for up to 48 hours to find out who sold them the joint, and make them testify in a future case against the seller. 

Abela warned that this state of play should no longer be considered acceptable.

“We can no longer accept that people found with a joint are interrogated at the depot, kept in the lock-up and then charged in front of a court to a tribunal,” he said.

“Some may argue that they’ll only face a fine and have to appear in front of a tribunal, but you should speak to those who passed through this ugly trauma and the parents of people who passed through it.”

“They were still arrested, told to make a police statement, made to reveal the source and testify against that source in court, with all the consequences that can bring.”

“Some people lost their job after being found guilty by a tribunal while others saw potential job opportunities vanish. These are realities we had and still have with us today.” 

Cover Photo: Left: Robert Abela with his daughter Giorgia Mae at last weekend’s President’s Fun Run, Right: Robert Abela addressing Parliament this evening 

Do you agree with the proposed cannabis reform? 

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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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