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The organisations mentioned express their grave concern about a number of reforms proposed in the White Paper on the 'responsible use of Cannabis'. This White Paper proposes a fundamental shift in direction towards further acceptance of the culture of use of Cannabis.

In a democratic society we respect dialogue and understand that politicians are confronted with diverse voices and interests. The law being proposed seems to give the most voice to those who want to use Cannabis freely. The proposed Law seems to reflect a lost battle with cannabis use culture and gives less protection to those who may suffer serious consequences due to Cannabis – individuals or families where there is dependence on Cannabis and other drugs; adolescents; those at risk of developing mental problems due to using Cannabis.

We believe that if this law passes as proposed, Malta will have to face the following repercussions:

  1. Cannabis will continue to be normalized as a substance which one can use more liberally without many repercussions. This is especially detrimental in adolescent brains where we know that the substance is very damaging to a developing brain. All the more so when the age of those who can make use of Cannabis is set at 18 years, as proposed in the White Paper.
  2. Traffickers start distributing Cannabis in the quantities indicated so that if their runners are caught, they are exposed only to the administrative fine, or they do not get fined at all if the package weighs 7 grams or less.
  3. It will be more difficult for persons who are dependent or face difficulties due to Cannabis use to benefit from a care plan as has so far been offered by the Tribunal or the Drug Offenders Rehabilitation Board (DORB). This is because in the light of what is proposed, if a person is in possession of less than 7 grams, they do not even have to appear before the Tribunal. Experience has shown us that many people who have had contact with the Tribunal or the DORB have successfully carried out a plan to address their needs.
  4. In the current culture, where people seek entertainment using alcohol and other substances, it is of concern whether this proposed law would lead to increased use of Cannabis and other substances.
  5. If the use of Cannabis increases, there will be more demand on organisations offering help to people using these substances and also on mental health services, as we have already been seeing increases in requests for help in recent years. Thus, implementing these proposals will require strong investment in care.

The White Paper leaves several unanswered questions such as:

  • How will the prohibition of public use of cannabis be enforced?
  • Will enforcement be carried out to ensure that Cannabis are not used in front of children in homes and that minors do not have access to the substance?
  • Will a threshold for the percentage of THC content in Cannabis plants as well as plant weight be established?
  • Is it being considered whether some of the proposals go against UN drug conventions?
  • Will occupational health and safety obligations be taken into account by employers, should their workers have consumed Cannabis?
  • How will people who are driving under the effect be tested?
  • Is there a country-specific study on what social impact these proposals can have?

We have always stressed that people using Cannabis for personal use should not be imprisoned or have this marked on their conduct certificate. Nor should these cases take years to be decided by the Courts. We encourage that people who want help have access to a quality service in a timely manner.

 

Press Coverage:

L-organizzazzjonijiet imsemmija jesprimu t-tħassib serju tagħhom dwar numru ta’ riformi hekk proposti fil-White Paper dwar ‘l-użu responsabbli tal-Cannabis’. Din il-White Paper tipproponi bidla fundamentali fid-direzzjoni lejn iktar aċċettazzjoni tal-kultura tal-użu tal-Cannabis.

F’soċjetà demokratika nirrispettaw id-djalogu u nifhmu li l-politiku jiġi konfrontat b’vuċijiet u interessi diversi. Fil-liġi hekk kif proposta tidher li se tkun qed tagħti l-aktar vuċi lil dawk li jixtiequ jużaw il-Cannabis b’mod liberu. Il-Liġi proposta tidher tirrifletti battalja mitlufa mal-kultura tal-użu tal-Cannabis u tagħti inqas protezzjoni lil dawk li jistgħu jbatu konsegwenzi serji minħabba l-Cannabis – individwi jew familji fejn hemm dipendenza fuq il-Cannabis u fuq drogi oħra; l-adolexxenti; dawk f’riskju li jiżviluppaw problemi mentali bil-Cannabis.

Naraw li jekk din il-liġi kif proposta tgħaddi, Malta ser ikollha taffaċċja dawn ir-riperkussjonijiet:

  1. Tkompli tiġi normalizzata l-Cannabis bħala sustanza li wieħed jista’ jagħmel użu minnha b’mod iktar liberu mingħajr tant riperkussjonijiet. Dan hu ta’ detriment speċjalment fl-imħuħ tal-adolexxenti fejn nafu li s-sustanza tagħmel ħsara kbira f’moħħ li qed jiżviluppa. Iktar u iktar meta l-età ta’ dawk li jistgħu jagħmlu użu huwa ta’ 18-il sena kif proposta fil-White Paper.
  2. It-traffikanti jibdew iqassmu l-Cannabis fil-kwantitajiet indikati biex jekk ir-runners tagħhom jinqabdu jiġu esposti biss għall-multa amministrattiva, jew ma jeħlu xejn jekk il-pakkett ikun ta’ 7 grammi jew inqas
  3. Il-persuni li huma dipendenti jew li qed jaffaċċaw diffikultajiet minħabba l-użu se tkun għalihom iktar diffiċli biex jibbenefikaw minn care plan li s’issa kien qed jiġi offrut mit-Tribunal jew mid-Drug Offenders Rehabilitation Board (DORB). Dan għaliex fid-dawl ta’ dak li qed jiġi propost, jekk persuna tkun f’pussess ta’ inqas minn 7 grammi, lanqas tersaq quddiem it- L-esperjenza wrietna li ħafna persuni li messew mat-Tribunal jew mad-DORB, wettqu b’suċċess pjan li jindirizza l-bżonnijiet tagħhom.
  4. F’kultura preżenti, fejn persuni jfittxu divertiment bl-użu tal-alkoħol u taħlit ta’ sustanzi oħra, wieħed jitħasseb jekk din il-liġi proposta hix se twassal għal iktar użu ta’ Cannabis u sustanzi oħra.
  5. Jekk l-użu tal-Cannabis jiżdied, se jkun hemm iktar domanda fuq l-organizzazzjonijiet li joffru għajnuna lill-persuni li jagħmlu użu minn dawn is-sustanzi u anke fuq servizzi ta’ saħħa mentali, hekk kif diġà f’dawn l-aħħar snin qed naraw żidiet fit-talbiet għall-għajnuna. Għaldaqstant jekk dawn il-proposti jiġu implimentati se jkun hemm bżonn ta’ investiment qawwi fil-qasam tal-kura.

Il-White Paper tħalli diversi mistoqsijiet mhux imwieġba bħal:

  • Kif se jsir l-infurzar ta’ dan li qed jiġi propost dwar il-projbizzjoni tal-użu fil-pubbliku?
  • Kif se jsir l-infurzar biex jiġi żgurat li ma jsirx użu tal-Cannabis quddiem it-tfal fid-djar u biex il-minuri ma jkollhomx aċċess għas-sustanza?
  • Se jiġi stabbilit threshold tal-perċentwal ta’ THC fil-pjanti tal-Cannabis kif ukoll il-piż tal-pjanti?
  • Qed jiġi kkunsidrat jekk uħud mill-proposti hux qed imorru kontra l-konvenzjonijiet tad-drogi tal-Ġnus Magħquda?
  • Kif se jigu kkunsidrati l-obbligu dwar is-saħħa u s-sigurtà fuq il-post tax-xogħol minn min iħaddem, f’każ li ħaddiema tiegħu jkunu kkunsmaw il-Cannabis?
  • Kif se jiġu ttestjati nies li jinsabu jsuqu taħt l-effett?
  • Sar xi studju speċifiku għal pajjiżna dwar x’impatt soċjali jista’ jkollhom dawn il-proposti?

Dejjem sħaqna li persuni li jużaw il-Cannabis għall-użu personali m’għandhomx jintbagħtu l-ħabs u lanqas għandhom tiċċappsilhom il-kondotta. Lanqas għandhom dawn il-każijiet idumu snin biex jiġu deċiżi mill-Qrati. Ninkoraġġixxu li dawn il-persuni li jixtiequ l-għajnuna jkollhom servizz ta’ kwalità f’ħinu.

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Chris Bonnici from the Primary Prevention Team was recently interviewed by Newsbook about OASI's work in the community, the basis of the treatment for addiction offered, and how the pandemic has affected the Foundation and those who seek its help. 

You can watch the interview on Newsbook.

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Here, together, we are issuing this statement as our contribution to the public discussion:

Positive Developments:

  • ESPAD (Sedqa, 2019) indicates that 12% of 15-year-olds said that they have tried cannabis in their lives. This rate has remained stable since 2015. In fact, there has been a slight decrease. This rate is much lower than the European average. This augurs well and indicates that when the policy on the personal use of cannabis was not changed, the rate was maintained.
  • The 2014 Drug Dependence (Treatment not Imprisonment) Act was an effective law and a step forward for persons caught with small quantities for personal use, who now appear before the commissioners for justice and are given a warning or a contravention. Due to the changes in the law there has been a drastic reduction in people being sentenced to prison for personal use unless on a series of other cases. This law has also led to dozens of people with serious drug cases and drug addiction seeking help instead of being sentenced to prison.
  • In Malta there is a wide range and substantial investment by the state and voluntary organizations, on services for drug abusers. These services will be greatly strengthened through the opening of the Tal-Ibwar Therapeutic Center for Adolescents, funded by the Government.
  • Steps have been taken in Malta in the field of medicinal use, through which one already has access for the substance if it can be of help to persons in particular conditions.

 

Facts:

  • Ingredients in Cannabis are harmful to the brain of a developing adolescent.
  • Cannabis is a great danger to those at risk of developing mental health problems. In some cases it can cause anxiety, paranoia and psychosis.
  • Cannabis is dangerous for people with mental disabilities and may continue to impair such persons in these capacities.
  • Cannabis can cause “amotivational syndrome” where an abuser or a person who is dependent may lose interest in their studies, work or relationships.
  • Prolonged use of Cannabis can lead to dementia later in life.
  • Not everyone who starts with Cannabis necessarily moves on to other drugs. The gateway theory it is considered outdated in the case of adults but not in the case of adolescents.
  • Whoever starts smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol at an early age (11/12), increases the chances of experimenting with Cannabis and continuing with other drugs.
  • Not all cannabis smokers end up addicted to it.
  • Cannabis appears to be the most widely used illegal substance.
  • A recent study by the University of Malta (Bonnici, Clark and Azzopardi, 2021) indicated that University students who experienced greater fear of the pandemic, in a circumstance where activity was also restricted, used cannabis more.
  • In the context of the increasing popularization of cannabis, and even more flexible laws, and current trends in use, the number of people requesting help due to cannabis is also increasing.
  • The “Icelandic Model” is considered around the world as a leading model in the prevention and control of substance use in minors - this involves curfews; strong investment in sports and extra-curricular activities and even expectations from parents in terms of supervising their children. Not everything applies to Malta as a Mediterranean country but family time, natural high activities and discipline in the country seem to be basic ingredients for drug prevention.

 

Other Considerations:

  • The Law passes on a message, and legalization for recreational use conveys the message that the substance is not so dangerous or risky or has recreational value. It can lead to further normalization of the substance.
  • It turns out that a person dies every day due to cigarettes, and 20% of cancers are directly caused by smoking - cigarettes are legal but this does not mean promoting them as a healthy substance for peoples’ well-being. Alcohol and cigarettes are legal substances that lead to hundreds of deaths a year.
  • If cannabis is legalized for personal use it will be harder to stop using it if you become dependent on it, as there are no legal pressures on the person.
  • The Black Market like any other market adapts to legalization for recreational use by lowering the price or offering a more concentrated substance.
  • When we look at what is happening overseas in this area we have to consider things well. For example in Canada one has to travel certain distances to buy cannabis from a “dispensary”. In places where there is a concentration of these dispensaries use increases. When we look at foreign trends in places where people can buy the substance we see for example in Uruguay there was a growing demand for the concentration of cannabis that is sold in dispensaries to increase.

 

Empathy and Sensitivity Towards the User:

As organizations we recognize that:

  • There is a need for more sensitivity for people who use Cannabis.
  • A person who uses Cannabis personally or has an addiction to Cannabis or other substances, should not be imprisoned or detained for use per se.
  • That it is unfair to stigmatize these people.

 

Recommendations:

  • Strengthen the 2014 law in a way that empowers the Commissioner for Justice to see the cases of first time users (first time caught) – so that where there is problematic use a person is required to attend assessment sessions.
  • That the judiciary has more leeway for people who are truly dependent and are caught with quantities over those established by law for personal use to not necessarily be considered as trafficking. This is where the quantity of the substance really is for personal use.
  • Strengthen the discipline and enforcement of entertainment establishments to ensure that no adolescents have access to these places.
  • Continue incentives for families involving their children and adolescents in sport or extracurricular activities.
  • Encourage family / work balance policies and any other family strengthening policies.
  • Carry out an evaluation of the potential impact on the well-being of society of legalizing cannabis for personal use in the Maltese context.

 

Conclusion:

While acknowledging that not everyone who uses cannabis becomes addicted, and at the same time no person should be arrested for simple possession, as a society we must properly assess that which will most likely ensure the greatest well-being of our society and do our utmost to above all prioritize the health of children and adolescents, the family and the common good over other interests.

 

Press Coverage:

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A recent interview with social workers working in the field of addiction, including OASI CE Noel Xerri, focused on the rise in the use of crack cocaine in Malta and its effects.  The interview also looked into how people report starting to use cocaine, and the differences between the use and effects of cocaine powder and crack cocaine.

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The OASI Foundation is committed to working towards reducing our carbon footprint, in line with our guiding principles of healthy living for the betterment of society.  We are happy to report that, through ERDF funding, a number of solar panels have been installed at the OASI premises, allowing us to offset the power we utilize from the national grid.

 

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all persons involved in this project.

 

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During an official visit to Gozo, the President of Malta, Dr. George Vella, and his wife, Mrs. Miriam Vella, visited the OASI Center to meet with residents and staff.  The President had words of encouragement for those doing the residential program, and thanked them for sharing their experiences with him.

 

Press Coverage:

 

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In parenting, when the parents are overly authoritative or protective, it is likely that the result will have the opposite effect. Very often, the result of such parenting would be that the child builds an attitude and a reaction that can lead to all sorts of things that can go totally against the parents’ expectations and wishes. Therefore, parental emotions should always be linked to good judgement and values. Parents need to be clear when they express themselves and show their affection in a way that children understand them well and do not misinterpret them.

Parents should be confident and sure of their decisions, as it may happen that they pass on this same insecure feeling on to their own children without being aware of doing so. This sense of insecurity in children will surely contribute in making wrong choices in their future.

Excessive ambition in parents also creates tension in a family environment; tension that creates unnecessary stress and often pose a great threat on the health and unity of the family. In a family environment where such tensions exist, children find it difficult to make good decisions which can help them find balance in their life. It is a fact that in every family there will be incidents that will make every parent feel a little angry, but parents should never exaggerate in their reactions. Contrary to this, they should not ignore these incidents and act as if nothing had happened.

Parents should always be responsible for their actions despite the tension created around them. Sometimes children become aggressive towards their parents. Some children are capable of using the threat ‘weapon’ which frightens some parents, who will in turn go back on their own decisions when they should not have done so. But when parents are convincing and remain adamant about the way decisions have been taken, this usually does not happen.

It is important for parents to understand that, when it comes to taking a decision about an important choice in their lives, children always keep in mind how their parents might react to the news or to the action already taken. It is therefore very important that from a very early age, parents should, with love, wisdom and great patience, clearly explain to their children the values ​of life ​and the limits which are expected from them. For children to grow healthy, mentally strong and mature, they need clear and consistent guidelines from their early years and throughout their upbringing.

Good parenting must lead to the building of a strong character, a character which when on its own, reasons in a way that one must not simply act in the same way as others are doing without first evaluating if it is right or safe for oneself to do so. Also, a sound upbringing is built on certain values ​​that teach us about denying and sacrificing ourselves from what we might want at the moment. There are many material things in the world that we would want, but not everything that exists can be good for us, at least not necessarily when, where and when we want.

These are just a few tips on good parenting. The list is however never-ending. When one choses to create a family, one must also understand that, first and foremost, one needs to take full responsibility for one’s own decisions - to be a good parent, to acknowledge what one wants and appreciate one’s own life but most of all, understands the reason why the decision of bringing children into the world was taken. We must understand that children are the result of a decision taken by the parents, as well as that of the society created or otherwise tolerated by the parents themselves.

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Daily life has developed in such a way that one is finding oneself in stressful situations that are threatening to one’s health. The causes can be many and also vary, and sometimes complicated as well. Hereunder we will mention some of these causes.

When you feel unaccepted - One of the most common causes is when one feels unaccepted. This applies to spouses, children, neighbours, relatives, friends and all kinds of relationships, which in order to continue growing and flourishing after their beginning, require constant attention. Today's fast-paced life can lead to not finding enough time for others close to us.

When you overwhelm yourself in an exaggerated way - Some people overdo it in certain routines or lifestyles. One may lose all sense of balance in his life plan with long and exaggerated hours of work that often result in insomnia and lack of rest.

Children are under heavy pressure as regards to studying as if their development depends only on long hours of study and the number of private lessons they attend. Women also oppress themselves when they go on certain diets to maintain their figure. It is very harmful when one goes on a strict diet without the advice and supervision of a doctor specializing in healthy diets.

When you feel you cannot keep up or cope - Sometimes we fall into our own trap when we ask too much of ourselves or when we aim for something bigger than we can ever bear or carry. It happens that one forces oneself to catch up and so as not to be left behind. Since perhaps the goal is too great, after some time one begins to feel frustrated and incapable.

Lack of self-care - Some people will never get fed up, never stop and are not aware that happiness it is not how much you work and strive, but how one uses one’s abilities that would have worked well to be happy and relaxed. Working hard to make money in the short term is stressful and leads to a lack of attention to personal health. What is the use of money and material possessions when one self-inflicts illnesses?

Lack of proper communication - One needs to communicate constantly with others. Moreover, when one speaks to others, one finds this as relieving of tension and thoughts that are burdening one’s mind and spirit.

When you think of controlling others - Some people think that nothing happens without their input or that everyone is of lesser intelligence. They think they know everything and want to know everything. While people like these do a lot of harm around them, they themselves become victims of stress when they realize, with great disappointment, that it is really impossible to control everyone and everything that happens around them.

Loveless sex - When sex is not or is no longer a tender expression of love then every sexual act becomes mechanical and is often another way of violence or manipulation of others. This creates tension in the person who is feeling used during the moment.

Work not properly catered for the employee - Another cause of tension and stress is work. If the work is not dear to the heart of the employee, then work becomes physical punishment and mental stress. Because work consist of regular and routine tasks, great harm can be done to the employee when work does not match the particular expectations and abilities of the individual.

These and similar situations, create stress and impatience towards those around us, especially on family members. Therefore, in our fast-paced daily routine, we should not allow stress to get the best of us but we should get used to:

  • planning well the time needed when handling situations
  • keeping a balance between work and leisure
  • self-respect and self-love and others
  • reasoning out intelligently while being aware of our own emotions and those of others
  • not taking ourselves too seriously but looking at ourselves with a sense of humour
  • checking that our children in school will be assessed with an aptitude test to help them become aware of their skills and abilities to help them decide which employment suits their skills and abilities
  • urging our children to follow our pursuit of good values
  • discipline does not mean force - working or acting against the will of the individual is worse than slavery, and certainly causes stress

Being careless can be very dangerous and can become one’s norm in attitude and expression. Therefore, we must be aware of the cause that is causing us stress. Several natural remedies can help relieve stress:

  • Time in the countryside or near the sea helps us to relax
  • If overwork is the cause of stress, it is good to ask someone to help us
  • We do not overload ourselves with work that we will not be able to keep up with
  • We practice regular rest

When you feel very angry, talk to someone you know who can understand you and whom you trust before you act out of anger. When you find yourself in a situation where you have no control over yourself, search for peace within yourself.

If we are not able to reduce stress on our own, we should seek the help of a psychologist or the family doctor.

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The OASI Foundation would like to thank the Malta Football Association for their kind donation through the Football for Life initiative.  

This program distributes a number of donations to NGOs working with people in need in different sectors each year, with OASI being one of this year's chosen recipients.

OASI is in agreement with the MFA that participation in sports such as football can have a positive impact not just on the individual, but on society as a whole, and we look forward to collaborating with the MFA on future events.

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