One of the most highly-anticipated consultation periods in Malta’s recent history ends today – and it seems practically everyone has sent their feedback.
The government’s recent white paper proposing major cannabis reform – including allowing four cannabis plants to be grown per household and carrying up to 7 grams in public without facing a penalty – has been a major topic of discussion since it was launched.
Criticised for lacking detail in some areas (such as how to procure cannabis legally following the reform) many of Malta’s leading stakeholders have publicly presented their suggestions.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the most interesting points raised.
One of the most progressive responses was from the Labour Party; it’s important to note that though PL is in government, the party and the government are still independent structures, hence the PL can provide it’s own feedback that is separate from the government’s view.
Saying it wanted the reform to give cannabis users a chance to access the plant without coming into contact with criminals, it offered a number of new ideas.
It called for an outlet option to be considered for people to obtain cannabis, as well as obtain cannabis seeds. Interestingly, it also urged for an option – such as social clubs – for users to be able to visit safely and in a regulated manner to use cannabis.
Beyond this, an option for a private area, such as a field, to be used as a private zone for multiple users to utilise was also brought up.
Aside from this, the party noted that police needed to have a proper reasonable suspicion of trafficking to follow, question or arrest cannabis users moving forward.
A need for a clear legal distinction between CBD and THC was also highlighted, as well as a renewed educational campaign with realistic information to ensure Malta’s next generations have the information they need to make decisions in their future.
Ralph Cassar, on behalf of ADPD, called for a more “humane drug policy”, noting that years of research has shown that mixing criminal penalties with social issues could be counter-productive.
ADPD also emphasised that decades of experience around the world has shown that the War of Drugs is a failure and has “ruined people’s lives”.
“When it comes to cannabis, the most sensible step is a pragmatic model. Regulating cannabis, which is different from other substances, makes more sense than panic and control over thousands of people who use this substance,” it said.
“It should be possible for cannabis and seeds to be purchased legally, under reasonable controls, from shops specially licensed for this purpose. Processed products should be subject to the same taxation as other processed ‘smoked’ products such as cigarettes and tobacco,” ADPD continued.
The party called for models such as Spain’s social club model to be considered for adults, as well as for the government to address the issue of people not having the space or ability to homegrow their own cannabis.
Caritas, Oasi and the Malta Psychiatric Association
The organisations issued a joint statement, saying the proposals ran the risk of normalising use in Malta, harming the island.
Saying they had “serious” concerns about the white paper and the way it fundamentally changed the approach towards cannabis in Malta, they argued that the proposals gave a lot of weight to the voices of cannabis users – an indication that they had “lost the battle” against cannabis culture.
They asked if normalising cannabis use would lead to an increase in the use of other drugs, as well as see an increase in people seeking out their treatment.
The organisations also raised concerns over what effect this would have on adolescent’s developing minds, saying it would be of “detriment” to them.
Malta Association of Social Workers
MASW said it welcomed the plan to decriminalise cannabis – but that legalisation of the plant would be “devastating” for society.
They urged society not to “give up the fight” against legalisation, but said that a reform of some sort was “necessary” as the current system “wasn’t working”.
“A reform needs to be grounded in research, informed by people with the right expertise and should be aimed at strengthening professional services,” they said.
“Cannabis-use in the community has increased over the past decade,” they continued. “MASW would be in favour of an educational campaign to inform the population of such negative effects. The campaign should not be one based on fear but on evidence and facts.”
Malta Association for the Counselling Profession
While the MACP said it agreed with the decriminalisation of cannabis, it also questioned what kind of fun one could have with the plant.
“The white paper recognises that among cannabis’ effects are effects on the heart, memory, apathy, euphoria, paranoia and anxiety. Should we be giving the impression that for one to enjoy themselves they need to suffer these consequences? If so, what kind of fun is that?”
The association also questioned the reasoning behind landing on allowing four plants to be grown and seven grams to be carried. It asked how the government had arrived at these amounts came from.
Malta Unborn Child Movement, Malta Midwives Association and National Council of Women
The three groups urged for legislators to consider what effect regulating cannabis use in Malta would have on unborn foetuses.
“There are also those who will be affected by the proposed legislation but have no voice with which to express their concerns: unborn children,” they said. “It would be inconceivable for legislators to change the law without considering the impact on the well-being of the unborn child.”
They also said there was a correlation between cannabis use by expectant mothers and and increased risk of disorders like autism and cognitive impairment in the children.
The groups said they agreed with removing stigma from cannabis users, but stressed that “Parliament should not enact laws which harm life of unborn human beings through the facilitation of use of dangerous substances”.
Malta’s newest, and possibly most liberal, party urged for a widening of proposals, saying up to 25 grams of cannabis should be allowed to be carried.
They also called for a pilot cannabis social club project to be launched to see whether it would work in Malta, and called for the implementation of the successful Portuguese model of decriminalising all drugs, removing users from the criminal system altogether.
The lobby group said the white paper was an “important development in the country’s “long road towards “increased social justice and individual freedoms.”
Saying the policies showed a more humane approach to users, ReLeaf praised the “brave” progressive policies included in the white paper, adding that it hoped it would be able to overcome “stereotypes” that had developed about the cannabis community.
The group also called for the immediate release of any non-violent prisoners who were locked up over cannabis convictions, and to immediately decriminalise the importation of cannabis seeds for personal growing. ReLeaf also called for an amendment that would allow sharing of cannabis in a private setting, as long as there was no monetary exchange.
The Pain Clinic
One of the leading clinics when it comes to prescribing medical cannabis in Malta, it reiterated the position that “all cannabis use being medicinal use”.
The clinic said that since 2016, it had gained firsthand experience of the therapeutic benefits of cannabis in the hundreds of patients that have used it, adding that many who had been using cannabis for years were “healthier than many of their peers”.
It proposed for the allowance of a “compassionate grower” in cases where individuals were unable to grow cannabis themselves.
They would then be able to pick up their cannabis in a regulated manner, such as through a social club, providing them with more choice and detailed strains to ensure the plant is suitable for them.
While the PN never issued official feedback, it said it was discussing the subject in a focus group and would continue to consult with stakeholders. It had previously said it agreed with decriminalisation of possession for personal use.
What proposals do you agree or disagree with? Let us know in the comments below