The Malta Employers Association has criticised the government's proposed cannabis reform, expressing concern over the lack of assurances over possible cannabis use at the workplace. 

"It is evident that, like the White Paper that was issued some months ago about the subject, the Cannabis Reform Bill is fraught with omissions, inconsistencies and hidden motives," the MEA said in a statement on Saturday. 

"It is more orientated towards normalising, rather than decriminalising the substance, which creates issues for employers. The Malta Employers’ Association will be insisting with government to include the option of having zero tolerance policies at the workplace in the Bill, and that employers will also have the right to conduct random dope testing in the interest of their employees and their clients, and also to protect themselves from any liability."

The association said the Cannabis Reform Bill could be an opportunity to reach consensus through legislation "which could focus on decriminalisation without promoting consumption". 

At the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development (MCESD), it said, all social partners had agreed that cannabis should be decriminalised, that people carrying minimal amounts for personal consumption should not be liable to criminal proceedings, and that there should be no obstruction to the use of cannabis for medical reasons.

However, eight out of 10 organisations had called for a postponement of the debate until after the next general election, to allow time for more research before any decisions were made. 

"Government has disregarded the appeals made and is dead set to forge ahead with the legislation before the elections at all costs for reasons which may be unstated but which are known to all."

Minister Owen Bonnici has said the bill aimed at the limited decriminalisation of cannabis and the introduction of a regularised source to obtain the substance, with the goal of reducing harm and targeting of the black market. 

Supporters have said it will give users the necessary tools to ensure they are consuming a safe product.

Critics, however, have described it as another step towards normalising cannabis use, increasing its use and the perception that it is not dangerous.

'Unanswered questions' - MEA

· Why does the Bill conspicuously omit references to the consumption of cannabis and the workplace, given the wealth of research linking consumption of cannabis and work related accidents?· Why is it being proposed to carry more than 14 joints (7 grams) for personal consumption, when in many other countries, e.g. Netherlands, this limit is much less?· Why is the Bill allowing persons to carry up to 28 grams (more than 50 joints) without criminal conviction? Exactly who is this Bill protecting, the peddlers or the victims of drug abuse?· Where are the safeguards to ensure that the lax approach being adopted towards cannabis consumption will not lead to a similar approach on harder drugs in future?· Where is the research and open dialogue about the consumption of the cannabis plant promised in the White Paper? Has a socio-impact assessment about the implications of this Bill been carried out, as promised to MCESD members?· Has Government approached the insurance industry or listened to their concerns to determine how work related accidents will be affected by this legislation?· Has Government consulted with the Occupational Health and Safety Authority about the ramifications of the Bill on workplaces?

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