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NGOs petition Malta to amend cannabis reform bill 

53 NGOs and academics have submitted a petition that calls for amendments to Malta’s reform Bill No 241, “Authority on the Responsible Use of Cannabis”.

The bill, which is set for its final vote on Tuesday, 14 December, would allow citizens to possess up to 7g of cannabis for personal use, allow the cultivation of four cannabis plants in the home and would see the introduction of regulated cannabis clubs where people could purchase the plant.

The bill’s intention is to prevent the criminalisation of cannabis users and tackle the illicit cannabis market. Under the reform, proceedings for those in possession of more than 7g but less than 28g would take place in front of the Commissioner for Justice rather than the criminal court, and may lead to fines between €50 to €100.

The petition, initiated by director of the Roman Catholic Lasallian Education in Malta, Stephen Cachia, says that the Government of Malta remains adamant to pass a “weak regulatory framework which risks leaving a massive negative impact on our society, especially among children, youths and the most vulnerable.”

It calls for the government to:

  • Increase the age of legal cannabis consumption from 18 to 25
  • Increase the distance of cannabis clubs from schools, youth centres and post-secondary institutions from 250m to 1km
  • Double fines for smoking cannabis in front of children and in public
  • Remove the possibility allowed in the law for cannabis to be grown in residences adjacent to schools
  • Regulate the amount of THC allowed in cannabis
  • Remove the reference to educational campaigns mentioned in the Bill to retain clearly the present situation whereby Government campaigns on drug use focus exclusively on prevention measures explaining the risks of cannabis use

The NGOs and academics say that the Government has only considered the input of one pro-cannabis organisation and ignored input from other professionals including medical experts, academics and organisations with expertise in prevention. 

Malta’s Minister, Owen Bonnici, tabled the first reading of the bill in October 2021, and its white paper had more than 350 submissions from the public and organisations when consultation closed in May 2020.

Read more: Malta’s Minister Bonnici presents first reading on cannabis reform 

The petition was submitted on 7 December, 2021 and closes on 5 February, 2022. According to MaltaToday, the Nationalist Party made an urgent request to discuss the petition which was turned down by Petitions Committee chair Joe Mizzi. Mizzi stated he rejected the request as the petition would be discussed in February when it closes, as per the rules.

The publication reported that Mizzi noted the Opposition “had refused to table any submission and was absent during the consultation process” and that government Whip, Glenn Bedingfield, stated it had not participated in the bill’s consultations.

The petition states: “At this late stage in the parliamentary debate, the undersigned 52 associations and individuals, representing thousands of stakeholders, are making a strong appeal to Members of Parliament side to reflect on the far reaching negative repercussion this law may bring on our society and to introduce these mitigating amendments.”

German toxicologist, Dr Fabian Pitter Steinmetz, who has given talks to the Maltese Government about cannabis regulation said of the petition:

The bill is expected to pass on 14 December due to majority support. If indeed successful, the move would make Malta the first European country to decriminalise the personal use of cannabis ahead of Swizterland and Luxembourg, both of which recently announced changes to cannabis legislation that have yet to be voted in.

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