Updated | Labour exponents call out Julia Farrugia Portelli over cannabis stance

Labour Mtarfa Mayor Daniel Attard and Cyrus Engerer insist the electoral manifesto must be honoured • Julia Farrugia Portelli insists she is, and will continue, being committed to the PL manifesto

Daniel Attard (left) and Cyrus Engerer (right) have taken issue with Julia Farrugia Portelli's remark on the PL manifesto's use of the word recreational cannabis
Daniel Attard (left) and Cyrus Engerer (right) have taken issue with Julia Farrugia Portelli's remark on the PL manifesto's use of the word recreational cannabis

Updated at 6.10pm with parliamentary secretary's statement

Parliamentary Secretary Julia Farrugia Portelli has come under fire from exponents in her party over comments on cannabis in a TV interview.

Farrugia Portelli, who is entrusted with reforms, including the legalisation of cannabis, said the recreational label given to cannabis in the Labour Party manifesto was wrong.

But in a Facebook post, Labour’s Mtarfa mayor Daniel Attard, also an official within the Equality Ministry, insisted the electoral pledge must be honoured.

“The winning manifesto is a contract with the electorate that must be honoured and respected,” Attard wrote.

His post was shared by Cyrus Engerer, the Prime Minister’s envoy in Brussels, who warned against becoming “another Nationalist Party that ignored its pledges”.

“The PL electoral manifesto was approved by the general conference and chosen by the Maltese and Gozitans in what was the biggest majority the country has ever seen. It should be implemented in its totality in this legislature,” Engerer wrote.

Engerer also started an online petition calling for a reversal of the assertion that the PL manifesto was a mistake, and insisting that the pledges should be implemented in their entirety. He withdrew the petition after Farrugia Portelli clarified her statements.

The Labour Party manifesto pledged to further the debate on cannabis legalisation. The Prime Minister had also declared himself in favour of legalising cannabis, a stand he reiterated during the parliamentary debate on the law legalising the production and use of cannabis as a medicinal.

READ ALSO: Election 2017: Muscat calls for 'national discussion' on recreational marijuana, Busuttil wants informed debate

Farrugia Portelli did say that government was looking at adopting a “harm reduction” approach for adults who choose to use cannabis but so far, very little details have emerged.

The parliamentary secretary has adopted a very cautious approach on the matter that has left those in favour of cannabis legalisation disappointed at the slow pace of reform, especially when compared to the Labour government’s track record.

Farrugia Portelli committed to deliver manifesto pledge

Reacting to the brewing storm, Farrugia Portelli said in a Facebook post that she was committed to fulfill the government's mandate. She insisted that as had been agreed by an inter-ministerial committee two years ago, the reform would have to be preceded by an educational campaign that was kicking off now.

"An electoral manifesto is there to be respected and implemented... I am tied by this manifesto and my job is to implement it. That is what I have always done and that is what I will continue doing," she wrote.

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