Malta’s newest president may be on point when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but George Vella may need to update his medical research when it comes to weed.
At a conference organised by OASI, a religiously motivated anti-drug organisation set up in 1989, earlier today, President George Vella was roundly applauded when he cast doubt on the pioneering steps Malta is taking when it comes to both medical cannabis and recreational cannabis.
“Both as a doctor and as a father, I have major reservations on how wise it is to extend the legalisation of cannabis to go beyond its medical use,” he said to OASI.
Saying that he wasn’t exactly ‘competent’ on the topic, he then compared the medical use of cannabis to the medical use of the opiate morphine, which has much stronger effects on the body.
“When it comes to medical marijuana, we need to remember that morphine has been in use for hundreds of years, and it has both its good and bad aspects,” he continued.
His comments come just two months after he said he “did not have a deep objection” to the legalisation of recreational cannabis, as several local and international companies rush to invest in the budding Maltese cannabis industry, and in the midst of Maltese NGOs calling for increased regulation of a legal market.
His stance caused concern among the Maltese cannabis community
“The prescription drugs your fellow doctors are prescribing are the real danger, and these same drugs are resulting in psychological dependence, not cannabis. Hypocrites!” said one cannabis user, while another simply said: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
However, this is not the first time Vella had expressed his worries about the devil’s lettuce
Following his swearing-in as President, he had mentioned the legalisation of cannabis in his interview with Reno Bugeja, where he had expressed his disapproval but seemed open to new research.
“I do not agree with the recreational use of cannabis but we have to see what professionals, say… I do not have a deep objection,” he said.
During today’s conference, he seemed to express the same sentiment, though he did namedrop the classic ‘Gateway Theory’ bogeyman so beloved to anti-drug organisations.
“If it is proved in the future that cannabinoids have a specific medical utility, then there is nothing wrong with using the drug for this purpose. But we should be cautious when it comes to extending this to recreational use and heed the research on issues such as whether marijuana can act as a gateway drug and whether it can result in psychological dependence on the drug,” he said.
However, he did admit that not all drug use results in mental health issues, and that not all mental health issues result in drug use
“There exist all shades of grey,” he said, before saying people who use drugs shouldn’t be given denigrating labels such as ‘junkie’.
“It is a mistake to look at those who have substance abuse problems or mental health issues negatively. They need our sympathy and love… and we have to understand that we need to give them the help they need,” he said.