Dr Chris Said has confirmed the Nationalist party’s position against the legalisation of cannabis for personal use, saying that the government was too quick to give up on the war on drugs instead of intensifying its efforts against drug use.
“The government is quitting everything and saying m’hemmx taghmel, we gave it up,” Dr Said told Lovin Malta. “I’m all for the changes being done in the law regarding those dependent on drugs, but it doesn’t mean we should make it easier to for them to access drugs.”
His comments come after a public debate hosted by the Circolo Gozitano on the legalisation of cannabis. During the debate, Parliamentary Secretary Julia Farrugia Portelli, Alternattiva Demokratika’s Ralph Cassar and ReLeaf’s Eric Castillo agreed that the legalisation of cannabis was the most appropriate and harm-reductive social policy for the Maltese islands.
“We are against the legalisation of cannabis” – Dr Chris Said
Dr Said said he had never smoked a cigarette nor tried alcohol or cannabis in his life, but that he didn’t want to impose his lifestyle on others.
He pointed out the ongoing battle governments all over the world face in regards to scaling back the use of other drugs.
“Cigarettes and alcohol have been with us for generations, and lately every government, not just Malta’s, is trying to restrict them and see what they can to lessen drinking and smoking in their country,” he said, mentioning the public cost of healthcare that comes with accessing these substances.
He said that he was learning more and more about the topic of cannabis, stating he had just learnt that the effects of cannabis can be intensified if the user also drinks alcohol. He welcomed more discussions on the topic.
“The discussion in Gozo was excellent,” he said, “it was a good debate, and what we saw was that everyone on the panel agrees that cannabis is bad, and that legislation is a question of harm reduction. But the obvious question I have to make to myself is: Do I want my children to smoke cannabis, and the obvious answer is ‘no’. Life is beautiful, take care of it.”
“The PN has not offered any constructive suggestions on how to address this problem” – Julia Farrugia Portelli
The Parliamentary Secretary in charge of cannabis law reform, Julia Farrugia Portelli, told Lovin Malta that the Nationalist party has no solutions on the cannabis issue and is keeping to its traditional position.
“As a government we do not have the luxury of doing nothing and we are determined to make our youths tomorrow’s champions and adapt to modern principles that take our nation to another dimension,” she said.
Pointing out the Labour party’s electoral manifesto committed the administration to a public consultation on the legalisation of cannabis, she said that doing nothing was not an option for Malta’s stakeholders.
“Although in the last years several campaigns about drug addiction and dependence took place, we strongly believe that a significant harm-reduction programme is needed. This reform will address the problem at its core rather than just the surface,” she said.
“They want a so-called war” – Ralph Cassar
Alternattiva Demokratika, a very early proponent of reforming Malta’s cannabis laws, believe in changing Malta’s drug policy from one based on criminal justice to one based on social policy.
“Countries like Portugal have years of experience with a more humane drugs policy, and when it comes to cannabis, we would like to see legal regulation – it makes no sense whatsoever to have adults pursued by the law for the occasional smoking of a joint,” he said.
He also mentioned a key issue for many Maltese cannabis users – the issue of quality and testability.
“It is imperative that the State ensures the cannabis used is not tainted or synthetic and takes the supply out of the hands of organised crime,” he said.
He was not surprised by the Nationalist Party’s position on the personal use of cannabis.
“Although some newspapers had reported prior to the election that the PN is in favour of the legal regulation of cannabis it seems that this was either a pre-election trick or an outright lie,” he said.
“They want a so-called war, even when the facts show that a war only makes matters worse for hard drug users and makes criminals of the occasional users of cannabis. They are putting hard drugs and cannabis into one broad category – this is a dangerous and dead-end attitude,” he said.
“Maltese community leaders must stop seeing cannabis users as victims” – ReLeaf
Pro-cannabis legalisation organisation ReLeaf said they were disappointed by the PN’s position, especially following a “personal” meeting with Dr Adrian Delia, the leader of the Nationalist party.
They said that, with this position, the Nationalist party was determined to be on the “wrong side of history” and called upon legislators to find out more about the plant and the Maltese people who use it.
“It is essential that the legislators of this nation move on from entertaining a disproven, antiquated idea of cannabis. The cannabis plant is an incredibly versatile natural plant that has a long list of beneficial uses, as a drug as well as applications like textiles and food, and there’s not a single death associated with its use,” they said in a statement.