On April 1, Germany passed their very own cannabis partial decriminalisation reform. The obvious question is: How does this compare to our reform? Let’s take a closer look.

It was one year ago when the German government representatives of the Green Party reached out to Releaf Malta, through our German counterparts, for consultation on where the Maltese government went wrong with our legislation. They wanted to hear directly from Maltese civil society organisations to see how not to make the same mistakes.

Initially, the German coalition had, in their electoral manifesto, promised the full commercial legalisation of cannabis if elected. Once elected, the new government began to realise that their promise was going to be close to impossible to enact, especially when their draft law was rejected by the European Union on the basis of breaching international regulations regarding commercial sales.

Releaf Malta’s advocacy both locally and internationally prioritised human rights and social justice over economic considerations, which was key to our success. The vision was to create a bottom-up approach, where the community actively participates in a regulated, not-for-profit system, preventing corporate dominance and ensuring accessibility and affordability for all community members. Creating safe spaces for consumers who have been persecuted for decades was also imperative.

Unlike Malta, the Germans took heed of our shortcomings and eventually went ahead and completely removed cannabis from the list of banned substances, and decriminalised public consumption so long as it is not near playgrounds, schools etc.

Also, they are permitted the possession of up to 25 grams in public compared to Malta’s measly seven grams. German citizens will be permitted to cultivate up to three plants in their own residence while we are permitted four. Both countries cap possession in one’s own residence at 50 grams (a ridiculous provision when considering a single cannabis plant could yield much more than 50 grams).

Germany will also regulate cannabis associations with a cap of 500 members with the major difference being that they will not impose licence fees, keeping true to the not-for-profit spirit.

Releaf Malta is humbled to witness a fair portion of our 2020 proposals come into fruition in two European member states. We remind readers of the time when anti-reform organisations took it upon themselves to push for cutting back on the reform with their suggestions regarding possession and personal cultivation and their total refusal to accept education and harm reduction as pivotal components of the reform.

Releaf Malta is proud that the vision proposed to the government of Malta back in 2020, a prioritisation of harm reduction, has now been accepted and adopted in a crucial and historic resolution at the 67th session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

We, the people who use cannabis, remain at the mercy of a top-down system wasting thousands in funds on poorly designed propaganda-led campaigns, government-appointed employees and businesses- Andrew Bonello

It is thanks to our local committed voluntary team of researchers and writers, together with an even bigger team of international activists and drug policy expert colleagues, that we can proudly claim to have got the European cannabis reform groundwork enabled. Of course, we cannot forget the Spanish cannabis social club movement that inspired much of our work and we will be forever grateful for their direct collaboration.

As mentioned before, it has been over two years since amendments to the law passed but, unfortunately, no further political will, regarding the much-needed improvements, have even been considered since. Of immediate urgency are the following:

Automatic expungement of criminal records, without need to apply anywhere;

Legal clarity on the status of cannabidiol (CBD) and a cancelling of criminal cases linked with CBD, irrespective if in flower or other format;

Recall from the market of all semi-synthetic cannabinoid products such as HHC;

Raising the amount of grams decriminalised in public, thus further protecting people from unnecessary legal risks;

Possibility to consume cannabis in places where tobacco is allowed to be consumed, ensuring the law respects the principle of proportionality;

Permitting the ‘sharing and gifting’ of cannabis between personal cannabis users and cannabis growers, thus preventing exposure to criminal consequences and unwarranted accusations of trafficking;

More grams permitted at home.

It is very worrying to observe that meaningful inclusion of civil society organisations representing the voice of cannabis consumers such that of Releaf Malta has been constantly sidelined by each appointed chairperson.

As an NGO that has been, since 2019, providing the government with expert advice (at no remuneration) and facilitating dialogue with international experts on cannabis regulation, it comes as a constant surprise that prohibitionist organisations with a clear agenda to oppose any type of reform aimed at safeguarding the rights of people who use cannabis continue to be given front row, and will now also be receiving large sums of money generated by cannabis harm reduction associations.

Sadly, we, the people who use cannabis, remain at the mercy of a top-down system wasting thousands in funds on poorly designed propaganda-led campaigns, government-appointed employees and businesses  and a very expensive regulatory framework for cannabis harm reduction associations.

Andrew Bonello is president of Releaf Malta. This was his second of two articles on cannabis reform in Malta.

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