The much-awaited educational campaign demystifying cannabis and battling the misinformation and stigma that surrounds the medicinal plant that Malta legalised years ago has been released…. and it mentions cannabis a total of one time.
TFAL5 (Tfal Favur Ambjent Liberu) is a booklet that is being given to up to 9,000 Maltese students. This booklet talks about various things: coping methods, how to deal with bullying or peer pressure, as well as substance abuse.
It’s a pretty decent booklet – except it features barely anything on cannabis and absolutely no new information on the plant.
The booklet forms part of the cannabis education campaign that Reforms Parliamentary Secretary Julia Farrugia Portelli referred to on multiple occasions, a campaign she said must be held before the country discusses legalisation, and is set to cost the country €400,000 over two years.
Last October, in regards to the education campaign, Farrugia Portelli told Lovin Malta that “doing the groundwork and doing it right is crucial“.
In the booklet, cannabis is mentioned just once by name, and that is as part of an exercise.
There is no information on the plant, such as that it has both psychoactive and medical applications, that it has various industrial applications in the form of hemp, and that THC and CBD are the key elements that make the drug so popular globally and financially lucrative.
Tobacco and alcohol, two popular and legal substances, each get multiple page explanations discussing various facts about them.
This booklet and another booklet are to be given out to Year 3 and 5 students.
While the booklet is fine – though it feels like the standard PSD booklet we’ve all been given growing up in Malta – one is left wondering what this booklet has to do with a “cannabis educational campaign”.
A spokesperson for the Office of the Prime Minister said that the booklet “is not meant to talk exclusively about cannabis”.
“One of the main pillars of the cannabis reform is prevention and prevention is not done exclusively against one substance,” they told Lovin Malta. “To the contrary, our Prevention Programme in schools aims to target children and youths (in Year 3 with TFAL3, in Year 5 with TFAL5 and Form 2) with the aim of having tools and skills to take responsible decisions for themselves.”
“This is done through the strengthening of the individual in a life-long course of character building sessions that can help children and youths make the right decisions,” they continued. “More drug-specific prevention, delivering correct information and risks of substances abuse is held at a later stage and will be covered with a stronger emphasis when delivering sessions to an older age group in secondary and post-secondary schools.”
The €400,000 package of government-approved funding will also pay for five full-time and one part-time employees, among other things.
“A Memorandum of Understanding between the Office of the Prime Minister and our National Agency SEDQA endorsed a financial package of more than €400,000, all of which are aimed at implementing the educational campaign. This package is split over a span of 2 years; €208,095 in year 1 and €197,248 in year 2,” the spokesperson explained.
The rest of the money will also be used on other various items, such as an outreach mobile unit with includes a generator and a refrigerated bench, and training on foreign practices by SEDQA for said employees.
The rest of it will be spent on developing a website, and other freebies to educators.
However, judging from the booklet which is a major part of this drive, very little of that €400,000 seems to have actually been earmarked to educate about cannabis in an effective or educated way.
— Julia Farrugia Portelli (@JuliaFarrugia) October 24, 2019
Pictured above: A tweet by the Parliamentary Secretary in charge of reforming cannabis laws regarding the cannabis campaign, using cannabis as a backdrop but actually mentioning cannabis about as much as the education campaign does.
Cannabis users are now wondering whether the Maltese government really wants to bring Malta’s cannabis laws in the modern age, and educate Malta on the substance that is now legally provided in pharmacies all over the island… or not.
Part of the goodwill the government had garnered within the cannabis community years ago has slowly soured as its lukewarm attitude has done very little to change people’s minds on the plant.
In a recent interview, Farrugia Portelli even questioned whether the Labour Party should have pledged to discuss legalisation in their electoral manifesto.
Towards the end of 2019, it was revealed that Luxembourg may be the first to legalise cannabis for personal use in Europe, dampening the hopes of many who hoped that Malta might take that title.
At least they aren’t sending people to jail for possessing small amounts of weed anymore… right?