Feedback to the recently proposed bill to legalise the personal use of cannabis up to 7g has been received positively across the island.
Published by Reforms Minister Owen Bonnici, Bill No. 241 has been welcomed by criminal justice activists calling for a better and more appropriate approach to cannabis use on the island. The island has been known to be notoriously harsh on cannabis users, with people being sent to prison for nearly a decade over the plant.
The new bill legalises personal use, allows growing up to four plants per household and even proposes cannabis associations on the island, a model seen in countries like Spain to great success.
Now, with feedback pouring in for the bill, it looks like the island is finally ready to move forward on cannabis legalisation and end the failed war on users.
“The Public Consultation we held earlier this year was possibly one of the most successful consultations so far, with around 350 submissions received. These ranged from individuals to NGOs, local entities, as well as international institutions with years of experience in the cannabis sector,” a government source told Lovin Malta.
They noted that while the feedback was “overwhelmingly positive” one issue did repeatedly come up: sourcing.
“While the outcome report will be published in the near future, we can confirm that the overwhelming majority of the submissions received were in favour of the proposals presented to the public, barring one important issue: the actual sourcing of cannabis, which the White Paper had left open for debate.”
Under the current proposals though, this sourcing issue will be addressed: users can sign up to join an association and have their cannabis grown for them.
“Indeed, this is now being addressed through the final Bill which was presented to Parliament just last week, which introduces the concept of collective growing through associations,” they said.
Over the last few days, a number of church-associated organisations hit back against the proposals, saying: “The proposed legalisation will bring more harm than good for Maltese society”
Cannabis lobby group ReLeaf had previously criticised the groups for “instilling fear rather than promoting education” on the issue.
PN Leader Bernard Grech took credit for the cannabis reform, insisting that it was his comments that had led to the proposal.
In light of that, the source said the reforms team was still open for discussion.
“Of course, we also recognise that some remain completely opposed to the concept in itself,” they said. “We remain open for debate, however, we believe that this reform is necessary to ensure a system that truly safeguards justice, well-being, and introduces harm-reduction measures for all.”
Here’s a breakdown of the 20 principles underpinning the reform:
Possession and cultivation
- Persons aged 18 and over can have up to seven grams in their possession and won’t be charged in court or face proceedings before a justice commissioner if caught. Police will no longer have the right to detain anyone caught with the plant.
- If a person younger than 18 is caught with up to seven grams, they will face proceedings before a justice commissioner and be given a care plan.
- The possession of between seven and 28 grams of cannabis will be punishable with a fine of between €50 and €100, as well as proceedings before a justice commissioner.
- Up to four cannabis plants will be allowed in private residences, but they must still be kept out of sight.
- Consumption of cannabis in public will remain illegal with the person being subjected to a fine
- Likewise, smoking around minors, whether in public or private, will be illegal and carry a fine of up to €500
- Fines related to unauthorised use will be payable online
- Anyone growing cannabis at home will be able to store up to 50 grams of dried plant at home
- The Responsible Cannabis Use Authority, which will regulate the sector in such a way that it also carries out educational, outreach and stakeholder measures in the sector will be set up under the act
- Cannabis associations that distribute cannabis among their members will be allowed
- Up to 7 grams a day can be distributed to each member with a maximum of 50 grams per month. The organisation will also be able to distribute up to 20 cannabis seeds to each member and cannot have more than 500 grams of the plant on their premises at any given time
- Any cannabis association cannot be situated within 250 metres of a school
- The organisation must be registered and authorised by the Responsible Cannabis Use Authority, which will be established by the new law
- The authority will have the right to carry out checks on each premises
- Associations will need to disclose the number of members they cater for every three months though they will not need to disclose any names
- Legal persons and other legal entities cannot be the owners of cannabis associations.
What do you think of the proposal?