Smoking cannabis will be downgraded in the eyes of the law if provisions in a White Paper on drug reform are adopted by Parliament, with users facing a traffic-style tribunal rather than court.

The consultation document, out tomorrow, recommends that cannabis users appear before a commissioner based in Valletta who would be empowered to issue warnings and administrative fines.

These transgressions would not be noted in a criminal record, though more severe action may be taken in “exceptional cases”.

The White Paper also proposes the depenalisation of simple possession of all drugs for first-time offenders.

Justice Minister Owen Bonnici declined to comment when contacted yesterday, saying only that the government did not support the use of illegal drugs but wanted to shift the focus away from punishment and towards the provision of care.

“There is a need for change in the penalties given to victims and the introduction of proportionality in sentencing. This is a process where we are rationalising the laws using a common sense approach,” Dr Bonnici said.

More in The Sunday Times of Malta and the e-paper on Premium.

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