Caritas Malta, Sedqa, the OASI Foundation and the Maltese Association of Psychiatry are in agreement that:
- There needs to be more sensitivity towards persons who use cannabis.
- The Law of 2015 – Drug Dependence (Treatment Not Imprisonment) Act – was an effective law and a step forward so that those persons caught with small amounts [of drugs] for personal use are decriminalized and depenalized.
- The law on medicinal cannabis was another step forward, as cannabis has medicinal properties which, when used on the basis of research, are beneficial to the patient.
- A person that uses cannabis or other substances should not end up with a mark on their police conduct certificate, or be sent to prison.
- It is not fair for these persons to be stigmatized.
At the same time we are concerned that the use of cannabis is being normalised and popularized. The use of the definition recreational cannabis passes on and confirms the message to society that this substance has recreational value. From our experiences with smoking and alcohol, we know that when a drug becomes more popular, and even legal, there is a tendency that the substance will be used more widely and its negative effects will have greater impact. This does not mean that if more people are using cannabis this is no longer something we should be concerned about. On the contrary, we should be asking why this substance is becoming more ingrained in our culture.
We want to give voice to many parents' concerns that their children justify the use of cannabis as medicinal, or due to “everyone using it”.
We also wish to give voice to research that was published recently, and which replicated [the results of] previous studies, and confirmed that the use of cannabis by adolescents causes great harm to the brain and exposes it to risks of dependence on other drugs. 1
We appeal to all persons of influence, from all backgrounds, to ensure that while they continue to aid in decreasing the stigma against persons who use substances, they also always pass the message to children and adolescents that no drug has recreational value and every drug, including cannabis, has its harms.
In Malta, there is extensive work in the areas of drug prevention and rehabilitation by authorities, through education, Government agencies and voluntary organizations. We see extensive work done by the Disciplined Forces and the Judiciary. We continue to hope that the laws that are proposed in this respect, strengthen the Law of 2015, to give more leeway to the Judiciary, so as to ensure that no person who is dependent on drugs ends up in prison, but is helped to find a lifestyle that does not include the use of substances.
The laws serve as a guide and message to society, so that it can develop fully and to the benefit of all its members. We continue to hope that the proposed laws do not open windows or doors for people to access drugs legally, and that there is deep consideration of the social consequences and the disadvantages that this can bring upon the most vulnerable members of our society. Among these are adolescents, those with dependence or at a risk of developing dependence on cannabis or other drugs, those who develop paranoia and psychosis through the use of cannabis, those who develop amotivational syndrome (lack of motivation in life) and those who already have intellectual difficulties.