Church organisations, NGOs and lobby groups opposed to easing cannabis laws have filed a petition to parliament, in a last-ditch attempt to stop a reform bill from becoming law in its current form.
The petition, which is signed by 44 organisations, former president Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca and eight other individuals, calls on MPs to make six changes to the bill.
All six changes were proposed by lobbyists from Caritas and the education sector during the bill’s second reading. The proposals were not taken on, with another call for the Prime Minister to allow a free vote on the matter also ignored.
MPs are expected to vote Authority on the Responsible Use of Cannabis Bill into law later on Tuesday. The bill will allow cannabis users to carry up to 7g of the substance in public without fear of prosecution, grow up to four plants at home in concealed conditions and allow users to sign up to cannabis associations where they can buy cannabis bud. Anyone with a cannabis possession-related conviction will have their criminal record expunged.
The government has argued that the reform bill is an exercise in harm reduction and will stop cannabis users from being criminalised or needing to resort to the black market.
But several NGOs and lobby groups have argued that the bill will normalise cannabis use and warned that the plans are being rushed through without enough thought or study.
In their petition to MPs, they said that the plans in their current form would lead to “a very weak regulatory framework which risks leaving a massive impact on our society”.
They reiterated six changes they believe are important:
- Increasing the minimum age limit for cannabis consumption to 25, from the 18 proposed in the law;
- Require cannabis associations to be at least 1km away from schools and youth centres, up from the proposed 250m;
- Double the fines for smoking cannabis in public or in front of children. It currently ranges from €300 to €500.
- Forbid residences that are adjacent to schools from growing cannabis; 5.
- Set a maximum limit on THC content of cannabis that can be grown;
- Remove references to education campaigns from the Bill.
Who signed the petition?
1. Caritas Malta2. OASI Foundation3. Malta Employers’ Association (MEA)4. Malta Chamber of Commerce and Industry5. Medical Association of Malta (MAM)6. Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses (MUMN)7. Malta Chamber of Pharmacists8. Gozo Business Chamber9. Malta Association of Social Workers10. Malta Association of Psychiatry11. Secretariat for Catholic Education (SfCE)12. Church Schools’ Association13. Gozo Tourism Association14. Richmond Foundation15. Zghazagh Azzjoni Kattolika ZAK16. Azzjoni Kattolika17. Malta Girl Guides18. Home Away from Home19. National Foster Care Association Malta20. National Parents Society for Persons with Disability21. St Jeanne Antide Foundation22. Paolo Freire Institute23. Millennium Chapel24. SOS Malta25. Dar Merhba Bik26. Youth Alive Foundation27. Social Assistance Secretariat28. Kummissjoni Djocesana Djakonija29. Dar tal-Providenza30. Society St Vincent De Paule31. Church Homes for the Elderly32. Ufficcju Hidma Pastorali mal-Persuni Separati33. Mater Dei and Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre Chaplains34. RISE Foundation35. Dar Hosea36. Peace and Good Foundation37. Migrants Commission38. Kummissjoni Gustizzja u Paci39. Osanna Pia Foundation40. Fondazzjoni Sebħ41. Life Network Foundation42. Karl Vella Foundation43. Malta CAN (Children’s Associations Network)44. National Association of Pensioners45. President Emeritus Marie Louise Coleiro Preca46. Andrew Azzopardi, Dean, Faculty of Social Wellbeing, UoM47. Claire Azzopardi Lane, Deputy Dean, Faculty of Social Wellbeing, UoM48. Colin Calleja, Dean, Faculty of Education, UoM49. Michelle Attard Tonna, Deputy Dean, Faculty of Education, UoM50. Sandra Scicluna, Head, Department of Criminology, Faculty for Social Wellbeing UoM51. Georgina Debattista, Visiting Senior Lecturer, Faculty for Social Wellbeing, UoM52. Max Cassar, Department of Psychology, UoM53. Angela Caruana - Children's Rights Activist