After months debating cannabis reform, in which Opposition Leader Bernard Grech actually took credit for a bill proposed by the government, the Nationalist Party has now decided to oppose the planned law.
In a bizarre statement, the PN’s parliamentary group claimed the bill will “normalise drug abuse and give rise to an increase in drug abuse”, essentially endorsing the status quo whereby cannabis users must resort to the black market and risk getting arrested and interrogated by the police.
“The PN’s parliamentary group isn’t in favour of Malta having a prevalent drug abuse culture,” it insisted, while claiming that the bill doesn’t include any safeguards for drug addicts or tools to fight drug trafficking.
It also tried to appeal to people’s emotions by sensationally accusing the PL government of “turning its back” on children and claiming the bill is intended to “create a diversion” on the eve of a general election.
The cannabis reform bill proposes that people will be able to carry up to seven grams of cannabis on their person and grow up to four plants at home.
It also proposes the formation of “cannabis associations”, NGOs which will be licensed to grow cannabis on behalf of its signed-up members.
A new Authority on the Responsible Use of Cannabis will be set up and people convicted of cannabis-related crimes that are no longer criminal will be able to get these details expunged from their criminal record.
Although this is the PN’s first official stance on the bill, Grech has repeatedly come out in favour of some kind of reform.
Back in August, the PN leader said the bill should tackle how people can purchase the plant through legal means.
“The leader of the Opposition and Nationalist Party Bernard Grech believes that cannabis reform should first and foremost tackle how cannabis can be purchased. Otherwise, the relaxation of laws will simply strengthen the black market and still benefit organised crime,” a PN spokesperson said.
When the government tabled the bill last month, Grech actually took credit for it, insisting that it was his comments which spurred the changes.
“This is yet another instance of how the Opposition is making change happen,” he said. “I look forward to the publication of the actual Bill so that we can have a serious discussion about this in Parliament and submit the amendments necessary.”
Confusion reigns supreme within the Opposition on cannabis reform.
Labour is the only political force in this country which is able to bring about real change. pic.twitter.com/anaLuJKIwO
— •Owen Bonnici (@OwenBonnici) November 12, 2021
The Labour Party said that the PN’s statement proves how Grech is a “flip-flopper with no sense of leadership or direction” while Reforms Minister Owen Bonnici said “confusion reigns supreme” within the Opposition on cannabis reform.
Should Malta legalise cannabis for personal use?