The Maltese government has opened up about plans for a “user registration” system for Maltese people who would like to access recreational cannabis locally.
As the government moves ahead with a public consultation on the legalisation of recreational cannabis, new details on plans to make state registration mandatory for cannabis users as part of a harm reduction policy have been released.
“During the last months, we have been in constant discussion with all relevant stakeholders,” a government spokesperson told Lovin Malta. “There is a wide consensus that we need to endorse a harm reduction approach to address the drug dependence. This automatically means that we must have some form of registration in order to have actual visibility of the situation. Obviously this is not cast in stone as we will be putting our proposals forward for public consultation.”
The proposed registry will not be accessible by the public, and will be for governmental use only.
Parliamentary Secretary Julia Farrugia Portelli also touched upon the subject in an interview with MaltaToday earlier this week.
“Government will be insisting on some principles, including a minimum legal age of 21, absolute prohibition in public places, as well as a user registration platform that protects users from criminal action and which controls dispensing,” she had said.
Pictured above: a recreational cannabis dispensary
“It’s time to act on the non-medical part” – Parliamentary Secretary Julia Farrugia Portelli
Julia Farrugia Portelli spoke to Lovin Malta about the thought behind the new plans. Though still under discussion, the thrust of the type of legalisation the Maltese government seems intent on – harm reduction first and foremost – is made clear.
“During the past months we have made leaps forward with the introduction of the medical cannabis. Now, it’s time to act on the non-medical part. We have conducted a series of consultation meetings with a large number of stakeholders who have worked in this field.
“There is a wide consensus, even from cannabis users themselves, that we need an educational campaign. It also transpires that if cannabis is used at a young age it can have adverse effects on the development of the nervous system.”
“Medical research and most stakeholders suggest that we have a safeguard for this matter and therefore we are recommending 21 years of age as the legal age to consume cannabis within the harm reduction mechanism. We are also taking into account issues related to driving or the use of machinery. We must educate people on these matters.”
“Through a harm reduction approach we will also be targeting those who have a dependence on drugs. This is part of a holistic and dynamic strategy.”
A handful of countries such as Canada and Uruguay, as well as 10 US states including California and Washington, have legalised recreational cannabis in recent years
States and countries differ on the details, but most places require nothing more than a valid government ID to be shown when entering a dispensary. Most states have approached cannabis lawmaking as they did alcohol, with rules governing cannabis use oftentimes mirroring laws for alcohol use.
In California, anyone above the age of 21 can walk into any dispensary and buy up to an ounce of the cannabis of their choice – several strains, be they sativa, indica, or hybrid, are on offer. It is also legal for anyone to grow up to six plants at home.
In Canada, anyone above the age of 18 can buy cannabis. Canada also offers an online service across the country, where people can buy cannabis online from the comfort of their home.
On the other hand, Uruguay, which was the first country to legalise the recreational use of cannabis, is the only country to make registration mandatory.
The Uruguayan system, which has been criticised by some as being too bureaucratic and controlling, only offers two strains of government-approved cannabis.
“A register will definitely push users away” – ReLeaf
“We understand and appreciate the fact that the government is concerned about introducing a new policy however a register with all the names of users will definitely push users away,” the country’s largest pro-cannabis lobby group told Lovin Malta.
The group warned that such a policy would have the opposite effect of what legalisation should be doing, scaring people back towards a black market.
“The government has been trying to reach out to users from the community, but everyone is still scared to even admit that they use medical cannabis, let alone admit for personal use.”
“Unfortunately, the government is risking all of this work for nothing as we highly doubt that users will start registering for such a thing”
“Additionally, this is quite demoralising and dangerous, what would happen of this register if governments change for example? How can these people feel safe and trust such a policy when it could be used against them some day?” the group asked.