Releaf Malta hits out at Caritas over ‘divisive’ cannabis position

Releaf says that Caritas and OASI Foundation are failing to acknowledge the harm done by the illegal cannabis market

Releaf Malta hit out at Caritas Malta and OASI Foundation after the two NGOs raised concerns about a new Bill to legalise and regulate cannabis consumption.

The cannabis pressure group criticised the organisations for adopting a “vindictive and divisive policy” while failing to provide constructive criticism over the Bill.

“They fail to acknowledge the harm done by the illegal cannabis market, currently in the hands of organised crime, and do not provide any solution on how to overcome this reality,” Releaf said in a statement.

Caritas Malta and OASI Foundation had warned that the proposed Bill on cannabis legalisation is a step towards the normalisation of cannabis use and will increase its perception as a harmless substance among youths.

Releaf said that the possibility of growing plants and forming non-profit associations to grow cannabis collectively is an important measure that aims to disrupt the current criminal monopoly.

“It is very worrying that the two primary organisations that provide therapy and help to people who develop problematic substance abuse continue to use perilous tactics with the sole purpose of instilling fear instead of driving education, and continue to foster stigma instead of seeing justice done.”

One concern Caritas and OASI Foundation flagged was that most people who develop a serious substance addiction had started with cannabis, while one in 10 adults who started using the substance as adults developed a complete dependence on cannabis.

“As both Caritas Malta and OASI foundation are well aware, when a person develops problematic substance use, the cause is not primarily or exclusively the substance consumed but rather other problems relating to psychology, past trauma or abuse, personal or structural injustices and human social life.”

“Conveniently ignoring these elements […] casts serious doubts on how these organizations hope to promote the good of society. In fact, it remains a mystery how neither Caritas Malta nor the OASI Foundation talk about the psychological, economic and social damage done to people who end up arrested, searched, interrogated and after a number of years waiting for the Court to pass judgment, taken to prison.”

When the Bill was first announced, Equality Minister Owen Bonnici insisted that the reform was not intended to incentivise cannabis consumption but to reduce the harm caused by drug rings while reducing the suffering and humiliation cannabis users experience when subjected to arrest and judicial proceedings on possession of small amounts.

“We therefore call on Caritas Malta and OASI Foundation to move closer to a policy based on dialogue and mutual respect, above all that embraces more human rights for everyone, rather than instigating a campaign of fear and misinformation.”