Cannabis lobby ReLeaf says former ARUC chair’s misgivings are ‘prohibitionist’

Cannabis liberalisation lobby ReLeaf calls out criticism from former ARUC chair Mariella Dimech, who has questioned the lack of any social impact assessment on the legalisation of home-growing and cannabis clubs

Malta’s cannabis liberalisation lobby ReLeaf has called out criticism from former ARUC chair Mariella Dimech, who last week questioned the lack of any social impact assessment on the legalisation of home-growing and cannabis clubs.

Dimech, formerly the first chair of Authority for the Responsible Use of Cannabis (ARUC), spent 21 years in the area of treating drug addiction at Caritas, but was removed from her role at ARUC after a year in charge.

Since then, Malta has legalised its first cannabis club which can dispense up to 7 grams of cannabis a month to just 250 registered members. “When they passed the law, there was nothing already prepared,” Dimech told RTK Radio last weeek. “So people got confused… things aren’t clear. And when things aren’t clear people get hurt.”

ReLeaf president Andrew Bonello reacted by saying that Dimech had “reverted” to a prohibitionist stance, accusing conservative organisations of scaremongering and stigmatising cannabis users.

“With an ongoing reform that is progressing in the right direction, Releaf Malta remains dedicated to amplifying the community’s voice for restorative justice and human rights.

“We firmly reject any attempts to undermine the years of voluntary work that have brought us to this point, including dialogue and cooperation with key experts in the field like Steve Rolles, Martin Jelsma, Oscar Pares and Tom Blickman, to name just a few. Morally driven agendas inspired by prohibition and their stigmatising narratives have no role in advancing a just and effective drug policy reform grounded in public health, harm reduction and human rights,” Bonello said.

Dimech has questioned the implications of raising personal drug possession limits to have accused heard before speialised drug courts. “ A treatment order doesn’t necessarily mean that the person will be in a residential rehabilitation facility. It can also mean that you simply attend meetings with your probation officer and go for therapy. But how many people out there know that if you take cocaine today, in three days time it will not show up on a drug test? You might not, but people who use it do,” Dimech said.

Dimech argued that the recommendations made by organisations that operate in the sector of treatment for drug addiction, such as Caritas and Oasi, must be given the same weight as the government. “We must pool all our resources and we mustn’t rush things. There is a huge problem with drugs in this country, with mental health, depression, suicides. We can’t keep up.”

“So when we open the doors, let us stop and evaluate the possible mental health consequences, if a real addict hears that there is a change in drugs legal status…let us see whether these are the things that will motivate him to stop.”