Updated at 12.32pm with MAPHM statement 

Legalising recreational cannabis would be giving out a very "unhealthy and contradictory message", mental health practitioners have argued.

The Maltese Association of Psychiatry and the OASI foundation, which provides drug and community services, said stronger policies guiding enforcement was needed. 

"The state was responsible to give clear messages to the general public, but studies showed cannabis use had counterproductive effects on memory, concentration and sensorimotor activities," the groups said.

The organisations also said they were concerned with the increased availability of drugs. Treatment demand indicators show an increase in recreational drugs, mostly cocaine and cannabis.

The groups said there was a decrease in onset heroin use but drug use nowadays was not tied to any social strata or cohort.

“We believe that punishing illegal use is often counterproductive, although we have encountered cases where law enforcement was a motivator towards a more satisfying and fulfilling life away of all substance abuse,” the group said.

They also warned users would not look into the effects of cannabis beyond the "euphoria experienced during the period of intoxication".

The groups also warned employers needed support and guidance on how to deal with cases of intoxication.

They reiterated calls for a Poison Unit in Emergency Departments that would monitor intoxication levels and cases in hospital. “The country needs more data,” the groups insisted.

"We do not believe the legalization recreational purposes will eliminate cannabis illegal supply."

Their comments echo warnings by academic Andrew Azzopardi, who argued the government's harm reduction approach to cannabis legalisation would not solve anything.

Prof. Azzopardi said regulating the use of cannabis around a harm reduction rationale would not solve anything and the dangers of the underground illicit drug trafficking would remain "active and lively".

Later on Friday, the Malta Association of Public Health Medicine issued a statement backing the psychiatrists' statement. 

The MAPHM had already come out against cannabis legalisation in the past. 

Since our last evidence-based statement, yet more research has emerged to
highlight the risk of facilitating use of cannabis by adolescents’ even at very low
levels," the association said. 

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