The Malta Independent 11 August 2022, Thursday

Full authority

Owen Bonnici Friday, 3 December 2021, 08:26 Last update: about 9 months ago

This week was a particularly interesting one in the House of Representatives as we have approved, after a five-hour long uninterrupted discussion and analysis, the proposed cannabis reform bill at committee stage.

The Opposition, once again, failed to deliver on its own promises.  Not a single formal amendment was put to the table, contrary to what it was publicly claimed they were going to do.  Claudette Buttigieg, who, until now, was the main Opposition spokesperson on the subject, was extremely and uncharacteristically quiet throughout the proceedings, save solitary interventions here and there at particular stages of the process.

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A number of NGOs intervened in the debate and I thank each and every one of them for the sincere effort they took to participate in the whole effort. 

I have read, of course, what the various people have said after the approval at committee stage and I believe that it would be opportune to underline one important and essential aspect of the proposed law: the new authority, which we are going to set up, on the Responsible Use of Cannabis.

The Bill, in fact, has as its main aim that of setting up this new regulatory authority and the relevant legal provisions are found at the very start of the legislative text.  Also, the name itself of the bill refers primarily and before everything else, to this new Authority.

So what will be the functions of this new regulatory authority within this whole unprecedented endeavour towards harm reduction in so far as the use of cannabis for personal reasons is concerned?

Immediately, the proposed law sets out that the function of the authority shall be that to regulate the use of cannabis for purposes other than medical or scientific purposes and to carry out work to implement harm reduction from the use of cannabis.  Therefore the prospective law is clear and direct from the word go: this authority has those two crucial functions which, I believe, are the cornerstone for a successful implementation of this whole reform.

Also, the prospective law provides that the authority shall also assist other law enforcement and regulatory authorities in the fight against crime in the field of dangerous drugs.

At this stage and once these principal roles are set out, the legislative document provides all the functions of the authority.

Firstly, the authority shall have the fiat to submit proposals and recommendations to the government concerning a national policy on the responsible use of cannabis that will take due account of the specific situation and requirements of Malta from time to time.  Also, it shall participate in the national planning process relating to social policy and dangerous drugs policy.

Furthermore it will monitor the use of cannabis in Malta, other than use for medical or scientific purposes, either directly or through the commissioning of surveys and other professional studies.  It will also – and this is a very important function - act as regulator with regard to the activities of non-profit associations which will be registered to provide, following the cultivation and possession of cannabis, the distribution of the same amongst its members according to strict rules and regulations found in the prospective law and the respective regulations.

It will also organise or promote educational campaigns on the responsible use of cannabis based on scientific facts and on the aim of harm reduction.  It will also be bound to give clear and impartial information on the risks and other elements of cannabis use with reference to age and with appropriate content, whilst promoting open dialogue on the subject.

The authority will be obliged to organise or promote the training of officials working with cannabis users and give advice on cannabis related matters.

This entity will also undertake periodic reviews of educational programmes and structures concerned with cannabis activities and of policies relating to cannabis.  It will recommend improvements in such programmes and policies and to identify sources for the training of persons in relevant fields of activity so as to ensure the continued availability of suitably qualified personnel.

The authority will promote effective communication and coordination with government entities and non-governmental organisations working with cannabis users or involved in the formulation of policies related to cannabis and identify overseas developments related to cannabis use that are of direct interest and relevance to Malta.

It will also be tasked with the setting up of databases and to obtain access to international databases in the field of cannabis us.  In this context, it will act as a contact point with respect to various regional, interregional and international organisations and will organize participation in seminars, conferences and in action groups and working groups of relevance to Malta’s interests in the field of activity of the authority.

This entity will also set up networks of professional persons and organisations to assist in the formulation of policies, and the implementation of programmes, and to monitor areas of importance related to responsible cannabis use of interest to Malta.

This authority will also have a Board and this Board, in my view, provides the best opportunity to have people of high calibre and who are well respected in their professional field of work.  Apart from the Chairperson (Executive or Non-Executive as the case may be), the Board will also contain from four (4) to eight (8) other members appointed by the Government from amongst persons who have experience and knowledge of the field of activity of the Authority, or experience in the field of non-governmental organisations, or other regulatory experience, or who are qualified in sciences or have experience in research or who have experience as educators or in the exercise of the legal profession of advocate, or persons who represent the wide perspective of the various opinions of the stakeholders in the sector.

As one can immediately see, this regulatory authority will be the most important cog in the whole new system and it is our full intention to make sure that the people heading it, the Board members nominated upon it and the staff working within the entity are well-qualified, respected and have a proven track record.

I look forward to the implementation of yet another important reform which will keep changing our country for the better.

 

 

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