Caritas, Sedqa and several other organisations have warned that legalisation of recreational use of cannabis will push up consumption, push down prices, and lead to calls for higher concentrations of the drug.
In a long statement, Caritas Malta, Oasi Foundation, Sedqa and the Psychiatry Association said that while they recognised that not all those who used cannabis became dependant on it, and no one should be arrested for simple possession of the drug, society needed to consider what could best assure its wellbeing and prioritise the health of children, adolescents, and families.
They explained that the law conveyed a message and legalisation for recreational use conveyed the message that this drug was not dangerous or risky and had a recreational value.
Should cannabis be legalised for personal use, it would be more difficult for those who were hooked to stop, since they would no longer have legal pressures. The black market would adapt itself to legalisation be cutting prices or offering more concentrated substances.
The organisations' statement comes after Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri said that drug laws should change, following a public outcry over the arrest of a couple caught with cannabis by police who raided their hotel room.
Camilleri is not the only person to have called for change: Labour Party deputy leader Daniel Micallef and PN MEP Roberta Metsola also said such arrests were unnecessary.
In their statement on Wednesday, the organisations said they did not want anyone sent to prison solely for taking cannabis and it was not right that such persons were stigmatised.
They suggested amending existing laws to enable Commissioners of Justice to hear cases of first-time use, and giving the judiciary greater elbow room to decide whether or not a cannabis case concerned drug trafficking.
There was also a need for stronger law enforcement to prevent the young from entering establishments from which they are banned, they added.
Read the full statement by clicking on pdf below.