Fearne on cannabis: ‘As a doctor I tell people not to drink and smoke. But it’s their decision’

Health Minister Chris Fearne is asked what his advice on cannabis use will be as a doctor

Health Minister Chris Fearne
Health Minister Chris Fearne

It is up to the individual to decide whether to smoke cannabis or not, Health Minister Chris Fearne said when asked whether he shared concerns of other doctors on the cannabis reform.

“As a person and as a doctor, I always encourage people not to drink or smoke, but at the end of the day, it is their decision to make, and the same principle applies to cannabis,” Fearne said.

He said the public needed the right material to make informed decisions within the parameters of the law.

Fearne was speaking at the launch of a mental health initiative to create a home treatment crisis team.

The government pushed through parliament a cannabis reform that will allow people to possess up to 7g of the drug without criminal sanction. The reform will also allow people to grow up to four cannabis plants at home and buy the product from regulated clubs in what is a light version of legalisation.

The Bill is set for a final vote in parliament on Tuesday.

Earlier this week, 53 organisations, including Caritas and employer groups, and a number of academics opposed to the reform, proposed several changes to mitigate what they believe will be the negative impact of cannabis legalisation on society. The changes included raising the consumption age to 25 from 18 and increasing the distance of cannabis clubs from schools and youth centres to 1km from 250m. They also want THC levels to be set at law.

The Opposition has asked parliament’s petitions committee to discuss the petition before the final vote.

Equality Minister Owen Bonnici has rebutted the changes suggested by the organisations, insisting that increasing the consumption age will simply create a black market for those under 25 and thus defeating the scope of the law to curtail the black market. He said the proposal to increase the distance was impractical and controlling the THC levels would simply encourage a black market for drugs with higher levels.

READ MORE: Cannabis legalisation will allow regulated associations and home growing of plant