Parliamentary secretary has misgivings over PL manifesto’s recreational label for cannabis

Julia Farrugia Portelli says it is wrong to equate drugs with recreation but says government will adopt harm reduction approach on cannabis use by adults

The legalisation of cannabis for recreational purposes has been slow to come about
The legalisation of cannabis for recreational purposes has been slow to come about

It was wrong for the Labour Party to use the term recreational cannabis in its manifesto, according to Julia Farrugia Portelli.

The parliamentary secretary who is responsible for reforms that include the legalisation of cannabis made the statement on TVM’s Ras imb Ras on Wednesday.

In a frank admission, Farrugia Portelli said it was wrong to equate any form of drugs with recreation because it would send the wrong message to children.

However, she added that government was going to adopt a “harm reduction approach” for those adults who decide to take cannabis.

She said this approach will ensure that adults using cannabis would not come in contact with traffickers but stopped short of elaborating on what the government had in mind.

The PL 2017 manifesto spoke of the need to further the debate on cannabis after possession of the drug in small amounts was decriminalised in the previous legislature. Malta also passed legislation allowing the production and distribution of medicinal cannabis.

“The next step is a national debate on whether we should go further, and if so, how, including a discussion on the use of cannabis for recreational purposes,” the manifesto pledge read.

During the election campaign, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had told a gathering of young people that he agreed with cannabis legalisation.

The reform was entrusted to Farrugia Portelli after the election but so far there has been very little detail on how the government intends proceeding on the matter.

The parliamentary secretary’s first priority has been to kick off an educational campaign on the harm caused by drugs.

Malta would have been the first EU country to legalise the use of cannabis but the country could be leapfrogged by Luxembourg.

The landlocked country, the EU’s second smallest state after Malta, recently announced plans to legalise the production and consumption of cannabis.

If the legislation comes into effect, Luxembourg would join Canada, Uruguay and eleven US states in legalising the use of cannabis other than for medical purposes.