[WATCH] On cannabis, Malta is kicking ‘gateway drug’ myth for good

One of the drafters of Malta’s proposed cannabis decriminalisation explains why it’s high time a victimless ‘crime’ is taken out of the shadows

Lawyer Desiree' Attard on Reno Bugeja Jistaqsi
Lawyer Desiree' Attard on Reno Bugeja Jistaqsi
On cannabis, Malta is kicking ‘gateway drug’ myth for good

A White Paper to decriminalise cannabis is addressing the reality of recreational use, said the Maltese government’s lawyer who helped draft a White Paper. 

“Prohibition has failed and that is clear. The war on drugs is a war on the person making use of the drug, not the substance itself,” Desiree Attard said on Reno Bugeja Jistaqsi.  

She refuted suggestions that the White Paper promoted the use of drugs. “Quite the opposite. We have hefty fines for public use, and the White Paper clearly says the substance is illegal.” 

She said it was key to make education a cornerstone of cannabis decriminalisation. “It shouldn’t be a war. We shouldn’t fight people who make use of drugs, we have to help them get out of the addiction,” Attard said. 

Attard also kicked back at suggestions that cannabis was the gateway to the use of harder drugs like cocaine and heroin, saying the ‘gateway drug’ myth has been debunked by a number of scientific studies, a position now endorsed by the Maltese government. 

“Had we come up with just one specific model, people would have criticised us for having issued a useless consultation. We have to look at other models, see what the consultation will result in and we move from there,” she said. “Portugal and Spain have shown that decriminalisation has improved the situation.”  

Caritas director Anthony Gatt however warned that the popularisation of cannabis could lead to more use among the community. “We work with addicts; we know their realities. Yes, people are not always addicted, but there are people who are,” he said.   

He said that it was true that people are making more use of cannabis, but the State had a choice to limit it, rather than promoting it. 

“While NGOs feel that people should not be incarcerated for possessing or making use of cannabis, the State should not further enable them.  We also have to say that some people have refrained from consuming marijuana due to the shock factor which stemmed from being questioned by the police,” he said. 

Caritas director Anthony Gatt
Caritas director Anthony Gatt