By Lisa Zengarini
The Maltese Government recently launched a public consultation on the legalization of marijuana, based on a “White Paper” in which it explains its proposal with background information.
Contents of the proposed law
The proposed law would allow the possession by an adult of a maximum of 7 grams of cannabis for personal use, while people caught in possession of quantities between 7 and 28 grams would be liable to a fine.
Fines would also apply to people caught consuming it in public areas and minors. This means that, while cannabis trafficking will continue to be illegal, its possession for personal use will no longer be a crime in Malta.
The law would also allow the cultivation of a maximum of four cannabis plants for personal use at home, while its sale would be regulated by specific provisions. Moreover, people with criminal records for possessing marijuana would be cleared.
Negative consequences on young people
In light of the "White Paper", the Secretariat and the CSA have called on members of Parliament to safeguard the wellbeing of young people.
They emphasize that priority should be given to the effect of cannabis on mental health and on the way it will promote and strengthen a cannabis culture among younger generations.
They express their full support to the arguments put forward in a joint statement by Caritas Malta, OASI, and the Malta Psychiatry Association (MPA),which describes the negative consequences that the proposed law would have on young people and children in Malta and Gozo.
Link between cannabis and mental illness
The statement disputes the idea conveyed by the Paper that cannabis can be used more freely as it has no relevant side effects, reminding that, on the contrary, it is indeed particularly harmful to a developing brain and can cause mental illness.
It also points out that the law would facilitate drug traffickers' activities. Moreover, people with drug addiction problems would be less likely to have public assistance for help.
The depenalization of its use would also encourage the consumption of this drug, and therefore increase the need for more public health services to assist people with mental illnesses caused by cannabis.
Need to study social impact of proposed legalization
Caritas, MPA, and OASI finally point out a number of questions unanswered by the Paper, including the overall social impact the proposal would have, on which no research has been conducted by the relevant authorities.