PM hits out at Opposition for not submitting feedback on Cannabis reform

Prime Minister Robert Abela says the Cannabis White Paper was based on the principle that people should not be treated like criminals for possessing reasonable amounts of marijuana

Prime Minister Robert Abela (Photo: DOI)
Prime Minister Robert Abela (Photo: DOI)

The Prime Minister Robert Abela has called out the Nationalist Party for abstaining from submitting its feedback on government’s White Paper on the decriminalisation of cannabis.

“I understand if they had contrasting views, but abstaining from submitting their feedback on such an important issue. I can’t understand that, but at the end of the day it’s their decision,” he said.

Abela, who is currently in quarantine, was speaking during a phone-in interview by ONE News journalist Edward Montebello on the party’s radio station.

MaltaToday reported on Sunday that the White Paper attracted more than 350 submissions from organisations and individuals when the consultation was closed on Tuesday.

“We are now analysing the submissions, so we can lay out a bill which truly reflects the sometimes contrasting views of the suggestions made,” Abela said.

Abela said the White Paper was based on the principle that people caught with a joint or a small amount of cannabis should not be treated like criminals, while bring to an end the substance’s black market.

“We also want to provide people who had been punished for possessing reasonable amounts of cannabis with another chance,” he said.

He said the Labour Party will continue to carry out the needed reforms, even during tough times like the pandemic.

The PM also welcomed the licensing of Zenabis, a Maltese joint venture which will see the production of cannabis for medicinal and research purposes. The process took two years before the company received the required licensing.

He said while the process was long, government wanted to ensure that the regulatory framework was up to standard.

“We look forward to having more licensed companies which would lead to better investment in the country,” he said.

On the COVID-19 pandemic, Abela said the past week continued to highlight government’s good work in dealing with virus.

“You feel the sense of optimism, and it stems from government’s carefully laid out plan,” he said. “The plan wasn’t extreme, and was based on common sense.”

He said restaurant owners have stated that Monday’s reopening was a successful one. Abela insisted that the way forward is not just based on Malta’s vaccination rate, but also on other countries’ success in dealing with the pandemic.

He called out the PN for “rejoicing” when Malta was not included on the United Kingdom’s green travel list, stating that all they want is to tarnish the country’s reputation.

Abela said that projections show the countyr’s economic growth will be higher than the EU average next year. “It’s because we had the courage to take the difficult decisions.”