Malta to legalize cannabis for personal use in European premiere | Cannabis

Malta will this week become the first European country to legalize the cultivation and possession of cannabis for personal use, putting Luxembourg on the back burner, as the continent undergoes a wave of changes in its drug laws.

Possession of up to seven grams of the drug will be legal for those aged 18 and over, and it will be allowed to grow up to four cannabis plants at home, with up to 50g of the dried product being allowed to be grown. preserved.

A vote in favor of the legislation in the Maltese parliament on Tuesday will be followed by the president’s signing of the law to be enacted by the weekend, Owen Bonnici, the minister responsible, told the Guardian.

The move by Malta, the smallest EU member state, is expected to be followed by reform across Europe in 2022. Germany recently announced a move to establish a legally regulated market, following the announcements from the governments of Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. A referendum in Italy is planned, while Canada, Mexico and 18 US states have already enacted similar legislation.

The British government of Boris Johnson, on the other hand, has been accused of taking a Richard Nixon ‘war on drugs’ approach after maintaining its harsh approach to cannabis use and making criminal penalties. for users of class A narcotics a central feature of its recent publication. 10-year strategy.

Bonnici said his government did not want to encourage recreational drug use, but there was no evidence for the argument that cannabis use was in itself a gateway to harsher substances.

He said: “There is a wave of understanding now that the hard-fisted approach against cannabis users was disproportionate, unfair, and caused great suffering to people who led exemplary lives. But the fact that they consume cannabis on a personal basis puts them in the clutches of crime.

He added: “I am very happy that Malta is the first country that will put words into law comprehensively with a regulatory authority”.

The change in approach of a number of European governments follows a UN decision last December to remove cannabis from a list of drugs designated as potentially addictive and dangerous, and having little or no use. therapeutic.

The Maltese approach seeks to avoid criminalizing all cannabis use while regulating to ensure harm reduction, Bonnici said.

Possession of up to 28 grams will result in a fine of 50 to 100 € but without a criminal record. People under the age of 18 who are found in possession of the drugs will go to a court of law to recommend a plan of care rather than being arrested. Those who consume cannabis in front of a child face fines of between € 300 and € 500.

Beyond allowing people to grow plants at home, although out of public view, it will be legal for nonprofit cannabis clubs to grow the drug for distribution among their members, at the same time. like the organizations tolerated in Spain and the Netherlands.

Club membership will be limited to 500 people and only up to 7 grams per day can be distributed to each person, with a maximum of 50 grams per month. Associations, which cannot be located within 250 meters of a school, club or youth center, can also distribute up to 20 seeds of the cannabis plant to each member each month.

Bonnici said his government has had a long debate on whether to monitor the strength of cannabis that can be grown and used, measured by the level of the key psychoactive or mood-modifying ingredient, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol ( TCH).

He said: “We’ve had a huge internal discussion about this. And we concluded that if a limit [can be put] on the strength of the cannabis, the THC levels, you will create a new market for the black market. What we need to do is educate people and inform them day in and day out.

The Netherlands is probably the European country most associated with a relaxed attitude towards cannabis use. However, recreational use, possession, and commerce are technically illegal there. Rather, the government has a gedoogbeleid, a “policy of tolerance”, under which use is widely accepted within certain limits. A trial is planned in which the production of the drug will be regulated.

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