Julia Farrugia Portelli: Thousands of cannabis smokers can’t be ignored

The parliamentary secretary in charge of reforms said the government would remain committed to the fight against drug trafficking while pushing harm reduction programmes

Seth Rogen in <i>Pineapple Express</i>
Seth Rogen in Pineapple Express

Legislators can no longer ignore the fact that “thousands” of Maltese citizens used cannabis for recreational purposes, according Julia Farrugia Portelli, the parliamentary secretary tasked with overseeing a national debate on the recreational use of cannabis.

Speaking in parliament during a debate on legal amendments, which will seek to make medicinal cannabis more accessible to those who need it, Farrugia Portelli said that since being given her portfolio she had been inundated with requests for meetings by various stakeholders.

“I am against drugs, but in a mature discussion you can never you are against something before you’ve heard all the argument,” said Farrugia Portelli, pointing out that many smokers had insisted with her that a framework needed to created that would allow users to purchase cannabis without having to come into contact with criminal dealers.

She said that while the government would continue to prioritise the fight against drug traffickers, it needed to accept the reality.

“We must address the fact that there are thousands of Maltese people who used cannabis,” she said, stressing that Government wanted to push the concept of harm reduction above all else, and would be embarking on a number of educational campaigns for people to better understand what they were dealing with.  

Finally, Farrugia Portelli said that she personally did not agree with the term “recreational use” of drugs, insisting that a different expression would have been more appropriate.

Opposition MP Therese Comodini Cachia, responding to Farrugia Portelli, said that at this stage, parliament was debating the medicinal, and not recreational use of cannabis, adding that the latter debate was for another time.

Moreover, she said that while the Opposition would be happy to debate potential changes it would first have to make it clear what changes it had in mind.

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