The Malta Independent 29 June 2022, Wednesday

9-year-olds being exposed to cannabis at home – Caritas director

Semira Abbas Shalan Sunday, 15 May 2022, 09:00 Last update: about 2 months ago

The worries expressed before the government passed a law allowing recreational use of cannabis have come to be, as children as young as nine years of age are being exposed to the drug, Caritas director Anthony Gatt said.

This is one of the more “significant repercussions” since the law was enacted, Gatt said in an interview with The Malta Independent on Sunday.

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Last December, the Maltese Parliament passed a controversial bill on what the government described as the “responsible use of recreational cannabis”, which decriminalised the personal possession of a limited amount of cannabis.

The threshold for possession of cannabis was set at 7 grams, while users are allowed to cultivate up to four plants per household. Anything between the amount of 7 grams and 28 grams has also been depenalised.

Caritas was one of the NGOs that opposed the law, foreseeing several negative impacts. And, less than six months since the law was enacted, the negative effects are already being noticed.

It has become difficult for users who have become dependent on cannabis to realise the repercussions it causes and reach out for help, as their defence now is that there is nothing wrong with it because it is “legal”.

“It has become increasingly difficult for dependent users to hit rock bottom, as legal consequences have been alleviated. The mentality, which had begun to change since the 2015 decriminalisation of the substance, is continuing to change, and so the attitude has shifted to being in favour of cannabis,” Gatt said.

“Even children have used this excuse during our prevention programmes on substance abuse,” Gatt said.

He said that a dependent user will now take longer to “hit rock bottom” and suffer health consequences. Families are also further at a loss on how they can confront loved ones suffering from a dependency, as the excuse has become that cannabis use is now allowed.

There are also many loopholes which make it even more challenging, Gatt said. Despite the law dictating there should not be cannabis use in the presence of minors, parents or siblings have still been able to make use of the substance and there have been cases where children, as young as nine, exposed to cannabis either passively or actively, which makes them more susceptible to the addiction, he added.

He said that schools, especially Church schools, have called for more sessions on the prevention of cannabis use, saying that Caritas has experienced a greater demand for their services.

Gatt said that he recognises that not every recreational user becomes dependent on cannabis, however the attitude has certainly changed.

 

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