Organisations petitioning change to cannabis reform bill deplore government attitude

53 organisations calling on MPs to change aspects of the cannabis Bill say they are ‘worried’ about government’s attiude

The 53 organisations petitioning MPs to include amendments in the proposed cannabis reform have expressed their “worry” at the government’s attitude when approaching the bill.

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 last 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 next Tuesday, and given government’s majority it is expected to pass.

In a statement on Sunday, the NGOs said the petition has garnered 8,000 votes. “There has never been a petition which has managed to collect so many signatures.”

In a press conference on Sunday, the organisations and individuals behind the petition said they sent a letter to Petitions Committee chair Joe Mizzi so it closed at 11:30 pm tonight so it can be discussed.

On Friday, a request by the Nationalist Party was turned down, with Mizzi saying it will be discussed in February.

“All those who signed the petition are in favour of decriminalisation. Nobody was sent to prison or had their police conduct tarnished because they were caught with a joint,” the statement read. “The law is being presented by Minister Owen Bonnici as being a progressive one, when it is one that will hurt society.”