A recently-formed political party has launched a petition in a bid to force a referendum on the new cannabis law approved by parliament on Tuesday.
ABBA party leader Ivan Grech Mintoff said the party was collecting the signatures for a public referendum to be held on the “unwanted Cannabis Act”, with the aim of having the law revoked.
Under local law, a petition must include the signatures of at least 10 per cent of eligible voters to force a referendum. Such applications are assessed by the electoral commission and must then be approved by the constitutional court.
ABBA estimates that it will require approximately 36,000 to 38,000 signatures to force the issue.
There were 341,856 registered voters in the 2017 general election. The last referendum held in Malta concerned spring hunting and was held in 2015.
“Despite the massive show of public opposition, the Maltese government yesterday went against the interest of the people and legislated for more drug-taking. This is a dangerous step that no other government has taken in any country," Grech Mintoff said.
It is a shocking and unacceptable imposition by a government on its people. Laws should be there to protect our society and our families, not destroy them as will happen will this law,” he added.
People willing to assist in the collection of signatures can call on 79879879 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Malta made history on Tuesday by becoming the first European country to introduce laws to regulate the recreational use of cannabis, that allows users to carry, buy and grow amounts of the drug at home.
MPs backed the Responsible Use of Cannabis bill by 36 votes to 27. All Labour MPs voted in favour of the bill while the opposition voted against it. The reform must be signed into law by President George Vella.
The new law makes it possible for those who use cannabis to legally grow up to four plants and purchase buds and seeds for personal use. Users will also be allowed to carry up to 7g of cannabis in public without fear of arrest, though smoking it in public remains prohibited.
Anyone with a criminal record for cannabis possession can now apply to have it struck off.
Among those keen to see the law revoked is former prime minister and PN leader Lawrence Gonzi, who said on Tuesday that "somebody must prepare to remove it as soon as possible using all legitimate means."
A group of 57 Church-led institutions and NGOs last week asked the government to listen to their concerns about the cannabis legislation and adopt the amendments they are recommending.
The NGOs highlighted instances of the harm to mental and physical health that cannabis use could inflict on the vulnerable. They also pointed out that while every cannabis user does not necessarily become an addict, the bill as proposed would see an increase in the number of people who smoke cannabis and turn to harder substances.
A last-gasp parliamentary petition launched by the law's opponents seeking amendments to the law was signed by just under 10,000 people.
Signatories, as well as the Nationalist Party, wanted the petition discussed before MPs voted on the bill. However, parliament’s petitions committee chair Joe Mizzi said the petition will be discussed in February, as per committee rules.