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Malta’s Minister Bonnici presents first reading on cannabis reform

Malta’s Minister for Reform, Owen Bonnici has tabled the first reading of the government’s proposed cannabis reforms.

In a tweet, Malta’s Minister Owen Bonnici said the bill would establish a new legal framework governing responsible use of cannabis. The government is proposing full decriminalisation for adults in possession of 7g or less for personal use. It would also mean proceedings would take place in front of the Commissioner for Justice rather than the criminal court for those with more than 7g but less than 28g.

Those proceedings may lead to fines between €50 to €100.

The white paper allows the cultivation of up to four plants per household and the expungement of cannabis-related criminal records. It would also mean the establishment of a Cannabis Authority.

Malta’s commitment to change

Bonnici said the ‘important reform’ would show ‘unwavering and determined commitment’ to progressive change within the country.

The bill has not yet been published, but it stands as an upshot of a white paper. The cannabis reform white paper had more than 350 submissions from the public and organisations when the public consultation closed in May 2020.

It was also promised that there will be a legal course of procurement however this has not been clarified. Minister Bonnici was in charge of the 2015 decriminalisation bill which saw possession of 3.5g for personal use depenalised.

Malta’s Labour party stressed they wanted people to not resort to having contact with criminals but suggested the establishment of regulated cannabis social clubs similar to Barcelona where it is legal to consume cannabis. They also suggested an outlet where it is legal to buy seeds.

Malta’s ADPD, the green party, called for a more humane drug policy stating that the war on drugs has been a failure that has ruined people’s lives.

They stated: “Regulating cannabis, which is different from other substances, makes more sense than panic and control over thousands of people who use this substance.

“It should be possible for cannabis and seeds to be purchased legally, under reasonable controls, from shops specially licensed for this purpose. Processed products should be subject to the same taxation as other processed ‘smoked’ products such as cigarettes and tobacco.”

They are also in favour of a Spanish-style social club for cannabis users.

Malta’s cannabis opposition

The government anti-addiction agency, Sedqa opposes the legalisation of any psychoactive substances. They said that the government may as well consider legalisation if they allow the cultivation of cannabis plants at home.

Caritas, Oasi and the Malta Psychiatric Association issued a joint statement stating that the paper ran the risk of normalising the use of cannabis and further harming the island. They encouraged the government to adopt a ‘harm reduction approach that focuses on prevention, education and treatment.’

By Caroline Barry

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