PN, PL view decriminalisation of cannabis as a bad idea
Decriminalising cannabis is a bad idea, according to the most influential institutions in the country: the Nationalist Party, the Labour Party and the Church.
Meanwhile, green party Alternattiva Demokratika believes the use of all drugs should be decriminalised but not legalised.
The Times sought various views in anticipation of a demonstration planned for tomorrow to call for laws on cannabis to be reformed. Those behind the protest say they believe in the decriminalisation and eventual legalisation of cannabis.
Decriminalisation refers to a situation in which the possession of a drug for personal use would not be a criminal offence although it might still attract a light sanction. Legalisation goes further, effectively regulating drugs in the same way as alcohol and tobacco.
The PN disagrees with both decriminalisation and legalisation but believes prison should be “the last resort” for cannabis users.
“Cannabis has greater dangers than tobacco, and in certain instances, alcohol. Being culturally acceptable, and legal, does not in any way decrease the harmful consequences of alcohol and tobacco,” a PN spokesman said.
The PN argues that the medicinal value of cannabis can be exploited in medications which would do away with its “harmful” effects.
“So the solution is proper production of these medicines and not legalising cannabis.”
According to the party, cannabis should be confiscated from those caught using it and users should be helped to stop using it altogether.
“Prison should be the very last resort when all possibilities of rehabilitation, that are many, have been exhausted,” the spokesman said, adding that experience in other countries showed decriminalisation did not decrease consumption.
“The state must control as much as possible the drug dealers, and not make cannabis legal to decrease their impact.”
The Labour Party gave a more generic and curt response to questions sent by The Times, saying simply it does not agree with “decriminalising drugs”.
Making no reference to cannabis specifically, a spokesman for the party said: “The priority should be on strengthening the methods used for prevention, with particular emphasis on education and fighting trafficking.”
Meanwhile, the Church, which focuses a lot of energy on the rehabilitation of drug addicts, says first-time offenders should be given a second chance but punishments serve as an important deterrent.
“Some people choose not to use cannabis because of the legal consequences rather than because of their health. It’s good to have these barriers,” Caritas director Mgr Victor Grech said, adding that the effectiveness of these deterrents depended on the person’s character.
He argued that cannabis had a worse physical and psychological impact on people than cigarettes and alcohol.
“The difference is the impact on the brain. Alcohol works slower than cannabis in humans.”
Decriminalisation would in-crease the number of users and therefore mental illnesses like schizophrenia. Cannabis is also a drug that leads to the use of other drugs, even though alcohol is the first drug in many cases, he says.
On the other hand, Alternattiva Demokratika says all drugs should be decriminalised, even if not legalised.
“If you are caught using drugs, you should not be sent to prison. But if you are an addict, the State should be able to decide to rehabilitate you,” AD chairman Michael Briguglio said.
“We are not a pro-drugs party. We are not in favour of selling cannabis in shops. We don’t agree with those who say cannabis isn’t harmful... I think it is harmful. But I don’t think it should be a criminal offence to smoke cannabis,” he said.
AD also believes drugs should be classified because “smoking a joint and being a heroin addict mean different things”.
Asked how alcohol and tobacco would compare with cannabis in such a classification, Dr Briguglio pointed out that AD was in favour of stricter laws on tobacco and alcohol.
He said the problem in the country was the large number of people in prison because of drug use and this would be best tackled through decriminalisation. Either way, he said, there should be a scientific approach to the discussion.
“There is nothing wrong with having the authorities investigating the claims of the medical use of cannabis...
“But we do not agree with a free-for-all legalisation policy.”