Caritas Malta, OASI Foundation, the Secretariat for Catholic Education and the Church Schools’ Association have expressed their strong disappointment at the attitude shown by Government side during yesterday’s discussion at committee stage.
Despite numerous reasonable and balanced amendments proposed by the organisations, the Government side refused to consider any of the suggestions and remained adamant to pass a very weak regulatory framework which risks leaving a massive negative impact on our society, especially among children, youths and the most vulnerable. On such an issue, we appeal to the Prime Minister to allow a free vote for Government members of parliament to allow them to vote according to their conscience and not on party lines.
The Government side refused to consider suggested amendments made by the organisations during the parliamentary committee meeting to:
- increase the age when smoking cannabis would be made legal from 18 to 25;
- increase the distance of cannabis clubs from schools, youth centres and post-secondary institutions from a mere 250 metres to 1 kilometre;
- double the fines for smoking cannabis in front of children and in public;
- remove the possibility allowed in the law for cannabis to be grown in residences adjacent to schools;
- regulate the amount of THC allowed in cannabis.
All these suggested amendments, which would have served to strengthen the law and mitigate the risks to society it will create, were all shot down.
Furthermore, the organisations have serious reservations about the way that the new cannabis authority set up by the law will also be undertaking educational campaigns which may include campaigns about what is being termed as the responsible use of cannabis. We strongly feel that Government educational campaigns on cannabis should not send mixed messages in this way and should focus exclusively on prevention measures explaining the risks of cannabis use.
Throughout the public debate surrounding this law, Government listened only to one pro-cannabis organisation and ignored the many organisations, constituted bodies, medical experts, professionals from the psycho-social field, academics, organisations with years of experience in the drug prevention field, former drug users and many others who have all expressed their serious concerns about this proposed law. At this late stage in the parliamentary debate, Caritas Malta, OASI Foundation, the Secretariat for Catholic Education and the Church Schools’ Association are making a strong appeal to the conscience of members of parliament on the Government side to reflect on the far-reaching negative repercussion this law may bring on our society and vote against.