Cannabis: the way forward is social enterprise | Cyrus Engerer

The future is here and we cannot be afraid of it. It’s time to implement Cultivation Social Enterprises as part of our national policies on recreational cannabis

The research is clear. The war on drugs has failed. Prohibition policies have failed. The “say no to drugs and be proud of it” plastered on all of our copybooks had as had little to no impact on the lives of young Maltese people. For the longest time, we have been having the wrong conversation, with the wrong people and in the wrong setting – and finally, this is all changing.

The future is here and we cannot be afraid of it. For all too long our society has incarcerated son after son, father after father, mother after mother and daughter after daughter for a victimless crime – the recreational use of cannabis. And this will not go on much longer.

It’s time to listen to the academics, the scientists, the social workers and the activists on the ground with regards to how we can start to face the reality that many people across Malta, the EU and the world use cannabis, and that cannabis users have human rights that must be protected – as consumers, as citizens and as human beings.

In the 2017 Labour Party manifesto, Partit Laburista pledged to address this issue. And in a next natural step following the introduction of many civil liberties and freedoms in Malta, this year it introduced a white paper which is up for public consultation. This is living proof that Partit Laburista wants to rectify an issue which has created countless victims of a legal system which punishes them for doing nothing more than just smoking a joint.

But with great freedom comes great responsibility. Thus, in order that we stick to both social and progressive values, we must ensure that any policy we implement is rooted in the social community and strays far away from hyper-capitalist development that has brought down countless cannabis policy models across the world.

Tomorrow, just a day away from the 20 April, the day cannabis users from all across the world get together to raise awareness on recreational cannabis policies, I will be hosting a European Parliament, high-level conference together with the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies. This conference brings together member state organisations, academics, journalists, human rights experts, toxicologists, harm reduction specialists, MPs and MEPs to discuss this issue and the way forward for all those forces across Europe who believe in a human rights-based cannabis policies.

As a politician, who sits firmly and proudly on the left, I believe that as a society, we must lead our debate by basing our information on evidence which focuses on harm reduction and best practice. Such a debate must include an open and honest discussion, not only with young people, but also older ones who have been using cannabis for decades, about drugs and drug use, and a legal framework which leaves no one behind.

As a local politician, and a citizen of Malta I have decided to contribute to the public consultation. In my recommendations to the government, I will be proposing that we firstly shift the focus of this topic from the discussion sphere relating to home affairs, police and justice to the health and social policy sphere.

In terms of concrete action, I will be proposing a cultivation social enterprise model similar to the ones established in Uruguay. Such a model would create the establishment of non-profits which would be legally allowed to grow cannabis on behalf of registered members. Such a club, which would be mandated to adhere to strict security measures of the highest regard, would also be mandated to adopt community-enhancement measures.

Such measures could include educational and information campaigns which would stay away from the “war on drugs” fallacies that create fearmongering, and instead be encouraged to use harm reduction measures, empathy and understanding to showcase clear, scientifically accurate information.

Additionally, in my recommendations to the government, I will be proposing that such facilities are also empowered to link members to community-based services, such as addiction services or psycho-social services, should they need them. In the system I will be proposing these non-profits would be required to adhere to total financial transparency and accountability to the public.

Additionally, access to such social enterprises would be only available to registered members of the club who must be residents of Malta. Members would be mandated to go through intake interviews where the social enterprise would need to find out more information about the member as a cannabis user – such as their frequency of use, their personal history with cannabis use, information on in what settings they consume, their lifestyle and the measures they can take to ensure their consumption is responsible and safe on an individual level.

Such social enterprises would also ensure social equality when it comes to access. In my proposal, enterprises would be able to grow plants for citizens who do not have the means to grow cannabis in their own residence, due to issues such as cost, space or direct access to sunlight.

Additionally they would be mandated to use sustainable growing methods which do not include harmful pesticides, GMOs or synthetic properties.

Additionally, I would like to see such enterprises provide specific information on the THC to CBD content and the specific effects that specific strains can give to individuals depending on the type and breeding of the strain. This will ensure that consumers are choosing the right product for their needs, and will ensure that everyone in the country has fair and equal access to this civil freedom.

Such a policy would ensure that a number of requirements needed to mitigate public concern can finally be fulfilled – such as public health, public safety, transparency and accountability.

It allows a legal security for consumers, ensures affordable access, ensures young people are effectively kept far away from cultivation; controls production in terms of better-quality THC, CDB and CBN by ensuring control and balance; creates a strong sense of sensibilisation, empowers consumers and the general public with accurate, scientific information and ensures a transparent relationship between growers and consumers.