Joe Mizzi turns down request for urgent debate on cannabis petition

Parliament’s Petitions Committee chair Joe Mizzi tells Opposition a petition calling for amendments to the cannabis Bill will be considered when it closes in February

Petitions Committee chair Joe Mizzi
Petitions Committee chair Joe Mizzi

Petitions Committee chair Joe Mizzi has said a petition calling for changes to the proposed cannabis Bill will be discussed in February as per committee rules.

Mizzi was replying to a request made by the Nationalist Party for an urgent meeting to discuss the petition that 53 organisations and individuals submitted with changes to the cannabis Bill.

A formal petition calling for signatures was uploaded on parliament’s website this week.

As is normal procedure, the timeframe for signatures closes after two months. So far, the petitions has collected more than 6,000 signatures.

However, the petition came late in the day when parliament is expected to proceed with the final vote on the Bill next Tuesday.

Mizzi emphasised that a consultation process on the bill has already been carried out, with 350 submissions from a number of entities, organisations and people. “I note that the Opposition had refused to table any submission and was absent during the consultation process.”

He also said that during committee stage, the opposition had also failed to submit any amendments.

“It also results that points made in the submission, had already been raised by NGO representatives during the sitting, and they had the opportunity to make their arguments,” Mizzi said. “Therefore, when the petition period closes, the petition will be considered by the committee.”

In its letter, the Opposition emphasised that every procedure that exists in Parliament, could be amended or modified in agreement with both sides of the House.

"This means, that there should be no problems for the committee to meet, once the Government agrees with the Opposition that this is a serious, urgent matter of national importance,” it said.

In a statement, government Whip Glenn Bedingfield said the PN’s request has “once again unveiled the Opposition’s political opportunism and inconsistency.”

“The Opposition did not take part in the consultation which even started with the publication of a White Paper and now they want to disrupt the parliamentary process,” he said. “This law has gone through various consultation and discussion processes and therefore the parliamentary process is one that should continue with respect for the democratic process.”