Malta’s leading cannabis lobby has reiterated its call for the regulation of the cannabis industry on the island while laying out a number of proposals.
ReLeaf’s proposals, which were first presented to the government in the lobby’s manifesto back in 2017, include the amount of bud one should be able to carry in Malta without being arrested, as well age limitations and even the setting up of cannabis social clubs in Malta.
“It is curious that although there seems to be a general agreement, at both the political and the expert level, that jail term for personal consumption of cannabis causes more harm than good, there continues to be a lacuna how the person can obtain cannabis without ending up in court and risking jail time,” ReLeaf said.
In light of that, ReLeaf has released a number of proposals themselves:
- Decriminalise the importation and sale of cannabis seeds and allow the cultivation of up to six cannabis plants per person;
- Facilitate the establishment of a not-for-profit Cannabis Social Club for adults who already consume cannabis, built on the foundational basis of safeguarding public health and privacy for cannabis consumers;
- Introduce proportionate administrative sanctions for adults found in possession of more than what is prescribed by the law and without coercive or need of legal and criminal threats ensure they are provided with harm reduction information about cannabis consumption;
- Introduce a safety bracket and appropriate educational tools for young people found in possession of fewer than five grams, thus ensuring young people are not stigmatised and criminalised from a young age;
- Implement an educational campaign that provides scientific information about cannabis and educates adults on the importance of balancing THC:CBD levels and how to recognise synthetic products and identify badly cultivated and cured cannabis;
- Identify the mixing of tobacco and cannabis in a joint as the most harmful method and promote alternative consumption methods (edibles, vaporizer, drops, etc);
- Ensure treatment facilities and experts in the field are trained, on a continuous basis, to address problematic cannabis consumption within a human rights and harm reduction framework;
- Introduce a cannabinoid testing facility providing information on THC:CBD levels and other important information pertaining to quality;
- Introduce a national minimum level of CBD presence in cannabis plants (proposed between 1% and 3%) thus promoting a more balanced product;
- Ensure out-reach educational campaigns and harm reduction tools are also designed and inclusive for people presenting increased risks of developing mental health problems, thus ensuring their overall well-being is safeguarded against a double stigma (mental health patient and cannabis consumer;
- Remove all criminal consequences for cannabis for personal cultivation and consumption and ensure human rights, public health and the right to privacy are respected for people who consume cannabis;
- Facilitate dialogue with adults who consume cannabis and include their voice at all levels of decision making;
- Introduce the expungement (retroactively) of criminal judgments for adults cultivating, consuming and sharing cannabis;
- Design age-appropriate material and ensure youths who already consume cannabis are included in the design of educational material and are directed towards age-appropriate educational, psychological and health services if presenting problematic behaviour;
- Educate youths on the different cannabinoids found in cannabis and for youths already consuming cannabis propose the consumption of higher CBD strains, thus attenuating the effects of THC and potentially the risk of developing problematic cannabis consumption or unwanted psychological effects;
- Ensure youths find a ‘safe space’ where to share their experiences and are provided with evidence-based information about cannabis consumption.
Just today, Prime Minister Robert Abela announced that the final stage of a public consultation had ended and pledged to issue a draft law on the regulation of the cannabis industry. The proposal is believed to include policies to end cannabis users being arrested for personal use as well as allowing the cultivation of the plant.
ReLeaf also reacted to a joint statement released by Caritas, Oasi, Aġenzija Sedqa and Malta Psychiatry Association.
The lobby group welcomed the fact that these organisations – some of which mainly deal with extreme cases of drug dependence – recognised that not all cannabis users experience problems and poured cold water on the debunked ‘gateway theory’.
“The statement underlines the importance to address people who consume cannabis in a non-stigmatised environment and ensure persons who develop problematic consumption find the appropriate assistance and care,” ReLeaf said.
However, they noted the associations continue to hold a “complete lack of regard for the voice of people who consume cannabis”.
“Furthermore, other blanket statements that cannabis might cause dementia in later life or a sense of ‘unfulfillment’ called ‘amotivational syndrome’ reflect a confused understanding of how cannabis relates to the body and how problematic substance use develops in the person,” ReLeaf noted.
“The statement continues to regrettably ignore the important role of promoting harm reduction tools and to ensure people who continue to consume cannabis are provided with information that aims to mitigate harm whilst providing the person with increased agency (not coercion or fear) to introduce positive changes,” they said.
They ended by reminding lawmakers that though a lot is being said about reforming laws, and the “well-intentioned but half-baked” decriminalisation bill of 2015 was still in effect, Maltese consumers remain at the mercy of criminals within the black market, with little to no protection or support to be found.