Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne believes marijuana use is a personal choice like smoking a cigarette and should not be criminalised.

The newly elected Labour Party deputy leader for parliamentary affairs says that as a doctor he will argue that marijuana is harmful, but compares this to other harmful habits such as tobacco smoking, alcohol binging and being a workaholic.

Interviewed on Times Talk, Mr Fearne, who is also Health Minister, agrees that the government should withdraw from “these personal decisions”.

“Our job as a government is to educate and inform people of the damage or benefits [of these substances], including smoking of marijuana… I don’t think it [marijuana] should be criminalised,” he says when asked whether he personally agrees with legalising the recreational use of the drug.

In the previous legislature the government had softened the drug laws, making possession for personal use an administrative offence. However, all drugs, including marijuana, remain illegal and people caught with a joint can still be arrested by the police.

The government now has an electoral mandate to initiate a discussion on the legalisation of marijuana. During the election campaign Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had said he personally agreed with legalisation.

Mr Fearne was elected Labour Party deputy leader last Saturday after beating Finance Minister Edward Scicluna in a runoff. The victory automatically steered him into the shoes of deputy prime minister.

Embryo Act reform

Asked about the planned reform of the Embryo Protection Act, which regulates in-vitro fertilisation, Mr Fearne says the proposed changes should make it possible for single women and same-sex couples to have access to treatment.

On the massive promotion exercise undertaken in the army last month, viewed by many as a vote-catching initiative, Mr Fearne says it was a mistake to have happened during the election campaign but defends the decision.

He says all grievances were justified and a backlog had been accumulating over the years.

He describes the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri as an important cog for the administration, insisting the man was subjected to a lot of allegations.

When it is pointed out that the creation of a company in Panama is not an allegation but reality, Mr Fearne says the magisterial inquiries underway show that no one is above the law.

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