Two NGOs have proposed that cannabis associations should be “safe spaces” where members have a “true interest and passion” in the substance, and where they could share best practices and seek advice even about unwanted effects.
The proposals are among those made by ReLeaf Malta and Moviment Graffitti in a policy document that urges a ‘social equity’ approach to Maltese cannabis associations. The document has been presented to psychotherapist Mariella Dimech as CEO of the cannabis authority.
In December, Malta became the first European country to legalise the cultivation and possession of cannabis. Cannabis users can now carry up to 7g of the substance without fear of prosecution and also grow four plants at home.
Smokers who do not grow plants at home can join associations and buy their supply of cannabis from there, up to a maximum of 7g in one day and 50g per month. Members will also be allowed to buy up to 20 seeds per month from associations they form part of.
The two NGOs suggest the associations should adopt a ‘social equity’ approach that is flexible and inclusive, providing a safe space for both cannabis consumers and growers to share best practices in consumption and cultivation.
“In a social equity framework, ideas of fairness, equity and justness work together to create a stronger set of values to guide policy, and ultimately promote positive social change,” the paper reads.
It says the associations should ensure that those forming and joining are already consumers who have a “true interest and passion” for cannabis.
In this way, associations would be transposing the unregulated social aspect of shared cannabis consumption, already spread across the islands, “within the perimeters of a members-only club”.
The associations should act as networking hubs for cannabis consumers to share experiences but also as a place to seek advice if they experience unwanted effects or health problems.
To ensure a “safe space attitude and environment”, proper monitoring and training for workers within the associations are a necessity, the paper reads.
It also suggests that people forming a cannabis association should have lived and worked in Malta for more than 10 years.
The NGOs suggest that instead of establishing a strict physical space, the cannabis associations can also be a “virtual space”.
“This might be particularly important to promote accessibility and a social equity approach for small-scale associations catering for a very limited number of members (for example 50) and not opting to offer cannabis on a daily basis.”
Flexibility will prove decisive in efforts to destabilise the monopoly of the illicit market and encourage more people to switch to a legal framework
By providing a virtual space, such associations would also contribute to reducing construction and transport emissions.
The paper also suggests that such associations might opt for a shared and communal growing approach, where members agree to cultivate up to four cannabis plants at home and then share the whole plant or part of it with the association.
Associations should be provided flexibility in the way they are run: to decide on their opening times and when, where and how cannabis is distributed and stored.
The organisation should have the possibility to adapt operations according to agreed terms between members and the needs of that community.
“Flexibility will prove to be decisive in the collective efforts to destabilise the monopoly of the illicit market and encourage more people to trust the cannabis reform, and switch to a legal framework.”
The paper also focuses on the importance of anonymity and safeguarding privacy, and of data protection for all consumers.
It also suggests that the authority ensures pricing levels are set within the association and in agreement with growers and members.
“Studies have shown that pricing, together with the availability, are key factors influencing consumer choices oscillating from the illicit to the licit world.”
The policy calls for the protection of local cannabis growers against “corporate captures by emerging cannabis businesses and, or other structural forces such as bureaucracy and overregulation”.
“It is imperative the authority respects the voice, rights and expertise of cannabis growers, and together with associations, identify potential barriers, explore different solutions, and discuss new areas for social development,” the policy reads.
It also suggests that local cannabis growers and the farming community be provided with the necessary tools to ensure their expertise is recognised and preserved within the cannabis community.