Owen Bonnici presents first reading on cannabis reform

Minister for Reforms Owen Bonnici said the bill ‘will establish a new legal framework governing responsible use of cannabis’

The minister for reforms Owen Bonnici has tabled the first reading of government’s proposed cannabis reform.

Taking to Twitter, Bonnici said the bill “will establish a new legal framework governing responsible use of cannabis.”

He said the “important reform” will show government’s “unwavering and determined commitment” towards carrying out progressive change.

The cannabis reform White Paper attracted more than 350 submissions from organisations and individuals when the public consultation closed last May.

Government is proposing full decriminalisation for adults in possession of 7g or less of cannabis for personal use and proceedings before the Commissioner for Justice, rather than the criminal court, for those with more than 7g but less than 28g.

The White Paper also proposes allowing the cultivation of up to four cannabis plants per household and the expungement of cannabis related criminal records.

Sources close to the consultation process had said the feedback was “encouraging” and reflected the public sentiment.

“Many agreed with decriminalisation but were against legalisation but there were responses criticising the White Paper for not going far enough in providing a legal framework that would completely cut out the black market and also create safe spaces outside the home for cannabis users,” the sources said.

Government’s own anti-addiction agency, Sedqa, accused the government of “sitting on the fence between decriminalisation and legalisation”.

Having dubbed the reform as a “vote-winning exercise”, last July the PN had said that its working group were still discussing the party’s position.

The PN’s working group includes lawyer Martina Caruana, MPs Claudio Grech, Claudette Buttigieg, Karl Gouder, Therese Comodini Cachia and Stephen Spiteri, as well as the presidents of youth organs Team Start, Eve Borg Bonello, and MZPN, Joseph Grech.

Although hardly a main issue in Maltese politics, the PN’s position on cannabis will be a test for a party that has historically struggled to chip away at its conservative shell on such issues.