Doctors union against legalisation of recreational cannabis

Medical Association of Malta supports depenalisation and decriminalisation but ‘does not condone recreational cannabis for personal use’

Malta’s union of doctors has come out against the legalisation of recreational cannabis, and warned against the promotion of the island as a place for “cannabis tourism or commercialisation of recreational cannabis”.

The Medical Association of Malta said it supported depenalisation anddecriminalisation of recreational cannabis for personal use, but it did not condone the use of cannabis for non-medical purposes.

“MAM believes cannabis use needs to be viewed in terms of social determinants and the social gradient, whereby people living further down the gradient are at greater risk of drug harms,” MAM president Martin Balzan said.

MAM also called on the general public not to use recreational cannabis to ease mental health conditions, and to instead seek professional medical services in such instances.

MAM said it viewed cannabis as a drug “that causes a range of health and social harms at the individual and community level.”

The association said it supported a harm reduction approach to cannabis use and that cannabis users should be addressed through education and treatment programmes while ;aw enforcement should target the suppliers of cannabis.

“MAM supports a public education campaign to demonstrate that ‘soft’ or ‘recreational’ drugs, as any drug, can have serious and harmful effects. This is particularly relevant for cannabis.”

The doctors also said cannabis use had significant neurological effects on children as a result of accidental ingestion and said children should be protected from any exposure. “All doctors should consider cannabis ingestion in a toddler or child with reduced consciousness levels and with or without abnormal neurological findings.”

The doctors union also warned that cultivation of cannabis plants in homes will make cannabis products more accessible to minors.

MAM also said it believes there was enough evidence to support the notion that cannabis is a “component cause” in the development of psychosis. But it admitted that “the precise strength of this causal relationship is currently unknown” and that there was a need for further studies. “Cannabis use can aggravate mental illness in those who have a predisposition to it or have pre-existing mental illness.”

MAM called on medical practitioners to be aware of dual diagnosis - psychiatric and alcohol and drug disorder - issues and multiple drug use problems when taking patient histories, especially of young people.