Handle cannabis decriminalisation with caution, church schools tell government

Church schools say government needs to reflect on the validity of the proposals to decriminalise cannabis put forward in a White Paper

The Secretariat for Catholic Education and the Church Schools’ Association have said the White Paper on cannabis use has the potential of creating serious issues for children and families.

In a position paper, the church schools said the country needs a “a healthy national discussion” on the issue, and government should not rush to push legislation.

It said contrary to what is stated in the White Paper, cannabis use can lead to serious addiction issues. “25% of those who reached out for help to Caritas in 2020 were addicted to cannabis. 36% of youths aged 20 to 29 and 75% of adolescents aged 14 to 19 using the services offered by Caritas in 2019 started using drugs by smoking cannabis,” the association said.

Church schools also found issue with plant cultivation, stating four cannabis plants could yield two kilograms of cannabis with the right conditions.

“This is of great concern, especially when one considers the fact that there are still no studies available as to the wide-ranging implications of such a proposal,” the association said.

The association cited professional bodies who expressed opposition to the White Paper.

“Government needs to reflect on the validity of the proposals which have been subject to such stinging criticism. At the very least, the repeated calls to undertake serious research on the issue prior to going ahead with any legislative changes need to be heeded,” it said.

Church schools said decriminalization needs to be handled with caution, saying the depenalization of cannabis possession of up to 3.5 grams has only been implemented for a short number of years.

“Before rushing into extending this legislation, it would be wiser to carry out extensive research on the effects of this legislative change on our society.”

The White Paper, according to church schools, includes no strategic vision on the manner in which substance dependency should be reduced in society. “There is no discussion whether our national strategy should be on promoting the culture of normalising and legalising the use of cannabis, as the White Paper is doing, or pushing for a much stronger investment of the State in policies and facilities for healthy recreational options.”

It concluded by saying proposals should not be taken forward before the coming general election.

“The debate on such a sensitive issue should not be hijacked by the partisan battle for votes which comes with every general election,” it said.