By Roland Sebestyén
The minister behind the new cannabis law in Malta called for European country leaders to legalise cannabis. Owen Bonnici, along with many other advocates, argues that the move would end unnecessary prosecution of low-level drug users and put criminal gangs out of business.
Euronews reports that Owen Bonnici, Malta’s Minister for Equality, Research and Innovation, said the country should provide the Europeans with a model on how to move forward from prohibition to tackle a number of issues.
Mr Bonnici added that the new law, which has been passed by the parliament in December 2021, will spare a lot of cannabis users from going through a tiring legal process.
What is in the law?
The new law allows the consumption of recreational use, while possession, to a limited amount, will no longer be prohibited.
At the same time, the bill was crafted to shield the public and children from cannabis use, so all those wanting to use or cultivate cannabis will need to meet a number of criteria.
For example, using cannabis in public will still be prohibited and when it comes to cultivation (for personal use, of course), the plants must not be visible from the street or other public places.
The Maltese government also promised to expunge the criminal records of those who have been convicted for the possession of cannabis for personal use.
While there are still some who are not happy about the change, this progressive and historic move will allow Malta to offer a blueprint for European countries, such as Germany or Italy, on how to approach the matter.
Decriminalisation, which means replacing criminal penalties with civil actions, is not enough – according to Mr Bonnici. The European countries should step up and legalise the substance so criminal gangs can’t realise profits anymore.
He said: “It is useless to say you can have five grams but you have to either buy it from a drug trafficker or cultivate it at home, in which case you will be breaking the law.
“You can’t do one and not the other. You have to do them both or do nothing. Doing nothing wasn’t an option.”
The tide has changed in Europe. As Malta became the first European country to legalise cannabis, Germany, Italy and Luxembourg could be close behind in making the substance legally accessible in the near future.
In Italy, for example, people will be able to decide whether they support liberating the country’s cannabis market in a referendum this year.