Malta's new cannabis rules should serve as a model for other European states to end the needless persecution of light drug users and deal a blow to organized crime, according to the minister in charge of the law, Owen Bonnici. .
Bonnici, former justice minister and now minister for equality, research and innovation, told Euronews that the new law, passed by the Maltese parliament in December 2021, prevented recreational users from being sued for possessing small amounts of cannabis.
New cannabis law
The new law enables users and ultimately non-profit organizations to grow and distribute cannabis plants through associations, meaning users no longer have to buy the drug through the black market. Maltese law allows users to carry seven grams by sight and keep up to 50 grams at home.
German Chancellor Olof Scholz is in favor of legalization, but the country's new government has set no time limit on reforms. Although the Netherlands is world famous for its availability, it remains illegal for individuals to sell or possess it. The coffee shops that are licensed to sell it have to buy their product in bulk on the black market, which encourages criminals.
Cannabis in Europe
A number of European states, including Italy, Spain, Belgium and Ireland, have abolished prison terms for marijuana possession, but in 14 of the 28 European states – including the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Austria – minor cannabis possession can still lead to lead to imprisonment.
Even in European states where cannabis has been decriminalized – meaning those caught with small amounts of the product will not be arrested – users still have to buy the drug from dealers.
“It's useless to say you can have five grams, but at the same time don't offer a safe and regulated route to obtain cannabis,” Bonnici said. “You have to do both or do nothing. Doing nothing is not an option.”
Bonnici, who suffered from asthma as a child, has never smoked cannabis, but before being elected to government he was a lawyer and as such saw firsthand how cannabis users are taken to court. As a minister, he was regularly confronted with people who lost their jobs or income after being convicted of possessing marijuana or growing a small amount of the drug at home. “You realize that if you want to make a difference in people's lives, you have to make bold decisions.”
Read more euronews.com (Source, EN)