53 organisations petition MPs to change cannabis reform in last-ditch effort

As cannabis reform is set to clear its last hurdle in parliament, 53 groups and individuals ask MPs to change aspects of the Bill to mitigate what they say is the negative impact it will have on society

The cannabis reform will allow people to grow up to four plants at home
The cannabis reform will allow people to grow up to four plants at home

With the cannabis reform Bill expected to pass this afternoon in parliament, 53 organisations and individuals are petitioning MPs to amend the legislation.

In a last-ditch effort, the organisations that include Caritas, employer groups, former president Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca and several academics, have asked for the age of cannabis consumption to increase to 25 from 18 contemplated in the law.

In their petition disseminated on Tuesday, the 53 organisations and individuals proposed several amendments to mitigate what they believe is the negative impact the law will have on society.

“Despite numerous reasonable and balanced amendments proposed by the organisations and individuals represented by this petition, the government side has refused to consider any of these 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,” the petition reads.

The cannabis reform Bill is slated for the Third Reading, which is the final stage in parliament before the it becomes law. The vote is expected this afternoon and given government’s majority it is expected to pass.

The Bill cleared committee stage last week with minor changes. The Opposition, which came out against the reform, did not propose amendments at committee stage.

The law will allow possession of up to 7g of cannabis with no criminal sanction, give people the chance to grow four plants at home and buy the drug from regulated clubs.

The organisations want the distance of cannabis clubs from schools and youth centres to increase from 250m to 1km; they also want the fines for smoking cannabis in front of children and in public doubled; and the possibility allowed in the law for cannabis to be grown in residences adjacent to schools to be removed.

Another proposal includes regulating the amount of THC allowed in cannabis, something which the proposed law does not do.

The organisations also want the new cannabis authority’s remit to exclude educational campaigns so that these remain focussed exclusively on prevention measures explaining the risks of cannabis use.

The organisations accused government of listening to only one pro-cannabis organisation when drafting the Bill.

“At this late stage in the parliamentary debate, the undersigned associations and individuals, representing thousands of stakeholders, are making a strong appeal to Members of Parliament to reflect on the far reaching negative repercussion this law may bring on our society and to introduce these mitigating amendments,” the petitioners said.