Catholic and social work organisations call for free vote on cannabis law

Organisations express 'strong disappointment' at government attitude during committee stage discussion on cannabis reform Bill

File Photo
File Photo

Catholic and social work organizations have expressed their “strong disappointment” at the attitude shown by government during Tuesday’s committee stage discussion on the cannabis reform Bill.

In a four-hour-long sitting MPs and NGO representatives discussed the individual clauses and approved minor changes to the Bill that will allow people to possess up to 7g of cannabis, grow the plant at home and buy from regulated clubs.

“Despite numerous reasonable and balanced amendments proposed by the organisations, the Government side refused to consider any of the suggestions and remained adamant to pass a very weak regulatory framework which risks leaving a massive negative impact on our society, especially among children, youths and the most vulnerable,” a joint statement by the organizations read.

They called on the Prime Minister to allow a free vote on the matter, to allow MPs to “vote according to their conscience and not on party lines.”

Among the suggestions put forward by the NGOs was the increase in the legal age for the consumption from 18 to 25, increase the distance of cannabis clubs from schools from 250 metres to one kilometre, doubling of fines for smoking in front of children and in public and the regulation of THC allowed in cannabis.

“Throughout the public debate surrounding this law, Government listened only to one pro-cannabis organisation and ignored the many organisations, constituted bodies, medical experts, professionals from the psycho-social field, academics, organisations with years of experience in the drug prevention field, former drug users and many others who have all expressed their serious concerns about this proposed law,” the statement read.

Caritas Malta, OASI Foundation, the Secretariat for Catholic Education and the Church Schools’ Association are making a strong appeal to “the conscience of members of parliament on the Government side to reflect on the far-reaching negative repercussion this law may bring on our society and vote against.”