The Malta Independent 30 May 2020, Saturday

NGOs concerned about ‘normalisation’ of recreational cannabis use

Tuesday, 28 April 2020, 14:35 Last update: about 1 month ago

Four NGOs have expressed their concern about the way in which the use of recreational cannabis is being ‘normalised.’

Last week, Parliamentary Secretary Rosianne Cutajar said she has been working on a legislative framework to reduce the stigma connected with cannabis and to ensure the introduction of a law which reflects "the realities of society." She said a government study found that there are some 40,000 cannabis users in Malta.

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In a statement, Caritas Malta, Sedqa, Oasi Foundation and the Psychiatry Association of Malta said that the term ‘recreational cannabis’ conveys a message that this substance has a recreational value.

The NGOs said the 2015 laws to decriminalise the personal use of cannabis was a good step forward, adding that there needs to be more sensibility towards cannabis users.

They warned, however, that when a drug becomes more popular and becomes legal, the tendency is for use of the substance to increase and for its negative effects to be felt even more.

The fact that more people are using cannabis does not mean that this should no longer remain a concern, they said. “On the contrary, we should ask why this substance is becoming more popular.”

The NGOs said they wanted to be the voice of many concerned parents whose children justify their cannabis use as a medicine or by saying that “everyone is using it.”

“We also want to be the voice of recent research, which replicated earlier studies, and confirmed that the use of cannabis among adolescents causes great harm to the brain and exposes people to other drug dependencies.”

They appealed to influential persons to keep working to reduce the stigma associated with substance-users but at the same time pass on the message to children and adolescents that drugs do not have a recreational value and every drug, including cannabis, has its own dangers.

They said any new laws should reflect the spirit of the 2015 amendments – that drug users should not be jailed but they should also be encouraged to shift to a life free of drugs.

“We hope that any laws that are proposed do not make it legal for people to access drugs and that the social consequences and disadvantages that such a thing has on vulnerable people are considered. These include adolescents, people who have or are at risk of developing a dependency on drugs, those who have developed paranoia and psychosis as a result of cannabis use, those who develop a-motivational syndrome and those who already have intellectual difficulties.”

The Malta Independent has been trying to reach Parliamentary Secretary Cutajar for comment about her recent statements for over a week.

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