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03/01/2018 Karen Tanti General

The Benefits of Cannabis Regulation for Maltese Society

For a long period of time, the conversation surrounding the use of cannabis has, for the most part, been negative. Users of cannabis were labeled as drug users and addicts, not only by lay society but also by those coming from a medical background, and cases of cannabis users brought in front of law courts reflected this mentality, with heavy sentences handed down.  

Over the past few years, we have seen a significant shift in the way the use of cannabis is perceived. One reason for this being that new research has helped to eradicate old, misinformed studies perpetuating ideas that cannabis is essentially harmful and has no positive uses whatsoever. 

A number of countries around the world have opted to change their policy regarding the use of cannabis, with some countries opting to legalize its use, decriminalize certain amounts for personal use or allow it to be used for medical purposes.

Malta has only recently begun to change its position. On 15 April 2015, Malta's new drug reform law came into force, decriminalizing the possession of up to 3.5 grams of cannabis per individual. While this is a good step forward, it still leaves much to be desired. If the sale of cannabis is still illegal, how are individuals acquiring their cannabis? This seems like a very irrational way to approach the issue. If the government is stating that possessing up to 3.5 grams only deserves a fine, then why are the people selling cannabis receiving the hard end of the stick?    

Before the decriminalization of cannabis, Malta had adopted a hard-line stance towards its use, imprisoning people caught with even a small amount for personal use for years and forever marking their name as a criminal. This is infinitely terrible as this 'criminal' will find it incredibly difficult to find work once the time comes to be released from prison to enter society once more. While the current Maltese position on the decriminalization of cannabis is beginning to move away from this hard-line stance, a much more rational approach is needed to tackle the regulation of cannabis. In the same way we regulate other substances, such as alcohol, the regularization of cannabis should also be approached from a rational standpoint, taking into consideration current research, the success other countries have had with regularization, as well as having a more coherent legal position on the use of cannabis. 

Regulating cannabis provides more benefits to society than punishing people for its use. Not only does the regularization of cannabis stop treating users as drug addicts who deserve to be punished, regularizing cannabis takes away the power from people abusing the current law and using the black market to carry out their criminal activities. Regularizing the sale of cannabis will allow it to be controlled and taxed like any other substance, which only makes it safer. With regularization, quality controls can be carried out which ensures a better and more trustworthy product. 

Regularization is the smart option for Malta. While we have begun to steer way from outdated and ineffective models for reacting to cannabis use, there is still more that we can achieve.

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