Malta’s cannabis white paper promises to deliver on some long-awaited reform. However, the question on everyone’s lips seems to be why the government is proposing to essentially legalise possession of up to 7g. One of the authors of the proposal finally gave a clear explanation on Xarabank tonight.
Speaking to host Peppi Azzopardi, Alex Scerri explained that studies clearly showed that regular cannabis users smoke between 1g to 3g per day. He said that it is reasonable to suggest that the change would cover an entire week for regular users, pulling away everyday people from operating in the black market.
The cannabis White Paper presented by Prime Minister Robert Abela last month will allow people to grow up to four cannabis plants, decriminalise possession up to 7g, and set up a cannabis authority, among other things.
Those found between 7 and 28g won’t be subject to court proceedings but will be subject to proceedings in front of a tribunal, where they can be fined between €50 and €100.
Scerri Herrera said that by decriminalising cultivation for personal use and possession, the government would remove power from street dealers, something Azzopaerdi vehemently disagreed with. Scerri Herrera was clear that the black market would never disappear, but the law would create a massive dent in criminals’ income.
When challenged about victims of drug abuse who have come out against the proposed reform on the grounds that cannabis was their “gateway” to harder drugs, Scerri Herrera said such cases shouldn’t be treated as the norm.
“While it’s true that some cannabis users move on to harder drugs, there are also cannabis users who never move on to harder drugs,” he said, noting that people from Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, to Michael Phelps and Barack Obama have all used cannabis.
“Cannabis users range from drug victims to some of the most successful people in the world,” Scerri Herrera said. “Just because it can lead to harm doesn’t mean we should completely ban its use, just like alcohol.”
He also said that it would not create a Pandora’s box for personal use, pointing to Portugal, which has decriminalised the use of all illicit drugs and has actually seen usage drop and plateau.
Going further into the cultivation issue, Scerri Herrera said that regulations will prohibit pregnant women from growing the plant and that clear lines had to be made when considering a person’s independence.
“We’re not telling parents to allow their grown-up children to grow cannabis at home. I would imagine most parents would make the responsible decision, as they do with other things like alcohol. That’s different when a person is independent and lives in their own residence,” he said.
He also dismissed suggestions that people will grow cannabis right in front of their children, noting that abroad most residential growers use private rooms to cultivate.
Azzopardi challenged Scerri Herrera with former Caritas director Dun Victor Grech’s claims that people would be able to grow 2kg of cannabis.
However, Scerri Herrera said that the white paper was simply an outline of the direction the government was taking and believed that once the legislation is presented, it will include certain criteria, like the amount each plant can yield.
Check out the full episode below:
What do you think of the proposed reform?