Cannabis becomes legal, but PN demands repeal of legal notice

Cannabis regulator established, PN warns it will take action in the House to get legal notice withdrawn: ‘legalisation during Christmas comes at time when drug consumption is highest’

PN leader Bernard Grech (left) and equality minister Owen Bonnici
PN leader Bernard Grech (left) and equality minister Owen Bonnici

The law establishing Malta’s regulator for recreational cannabis and amending cannabis activities, entered into force on Saturday.

The law provides the possibility of cultivating up to a maximum of four plants in households for personal use, as well as the creation of a regularised and safe source from which a person can obtain cannabis and cannabis seeds in limited and controlled amounts, under strict conditions. The latter will happen through the introduction of strictly regulated outlets, operated by non-profit associations, and registered with the Authority on the Responsible Use of Cannabis.

Bonnici said this new legislative framework will clearly attack illegal trafficking of cannabis, the black market, and crime associated with this activity.

But the Nationalist Party criticised the enactment of the legal notice, insisting that the law was “normalising drug use”.

The PN said the recreational cannabis law had the widest form of opposition, yet had been signed into law despite the warnings of public and mental health experts.

“What is even more serious is that the law has been introduced right before the Christmas holidays and New Year, a time known for higher consumption of drugs,” the PN said.

The party criticised the enactment of the law without the setting-up of the cannabis regulator, saying this was the “greatest gift” to drug traffickers “to get richer on the misery of others.”

“Abela’s irresponsible behaviour has created the biggest drugs market that has ever existed. The PN demands that the legal notice is repealed immediately, or it will take the necessary measures in the parliament to repeal it.”

Equality minister Owen Bonnici said the “strong and robust reform” allowing the dispensation of cannabis and home-growing was being implemented “in the way society perceives and treats citizens who make responsible and genuine use of cannabis, while curbing illegal trafficking and creating a new regulatory framework to protect minors and society at large.”

Bonnici said the government would still invest in programmes of prevention against all substance abuse. “At the same time, the government believes that it should respond to the realities in society and terminate the constant and unjust hardship and humiliation which the criminalisation of adults who choose to make responsible use of cannabis brings about through their arrests or arraignments in front of tribunals or courts,” Bonnici said.

He added that the necessary precautions and legal safeguards will be undertaken with the imposition of new and substantial fines in order to protect minors and the general public. “At the same time educational and preventive efforts in schools, communities and other places against drug use will continue with particular focus on young people,” Bonnici said.

Persons who in the past have been convicted by a criminal court for a crime which now has been decriminalised, will now be able to expunge that judgment from their conduct certificate with a simple written request, without the need of filing fresh Court applications.

The reform on responsible use of cannabis follows an electoral pledge and extensive consultation process culminating in the launch of a White Paper last March. The consultation process had attracted 350 submissions.  

“The entry into force of this robust legislative framework underlines this government’s willingness to make bold decisions by implementing wise and unprecedented reforms in order to bring about change and social justice in the best interests of society as a whole,” Bonnici said.