“It’s time for this great social reform in Malta. A reform which is currently being discussed in other European countries such as Luxembourg and Germany. It’s not just what you want that matters. But how you can turn what you believe is fair into reality.”
Prime Minister Robert Abela was addressing Parliament during a debate on the new Cannabis Bill.
The Prime Minister said that the Government could have chosen to remain silent and passive.
“But is this why we entered politics? We’re not in politics to ignore people’s struggles. Nor to become a superior and infallible class where we disregard the social realities faced by people. I believe that we have been trusted by the people to understand them and realities and on their realities.”
The Prime Minister said that the people elect their representatives to find solutions to challenges and not to abdicate.
“We have been trusted by the people to understand them and realities and on their realities.” – PM Robert Abela
“This is why we’re here. To build a fairer and more prosperous society. To repair injustices and prevent new injustices from emerging.”
Referring to the timing of the debate, he said that this government has the mandate to proceed, after a national discussion which took its due time, where everyone had the chance to participate. 350 submissions have been received.
We can’t ignore the realities any longer
With every day that passes and we ignore this issue, it means there is an increasing risk of a person being treated as a criminal for smoking a joint. It means that we’re punishing a person with a tainted police conduct. It means a loss of opportunity.
The Prime Minister asked whether the Opposition cares that people are being turned away from employment because they were once caught smoking a joint.
He said that there are people who are still not convinced but at the same time they do not agree with punishing users with a tainted police conduct and no employment opportunities. It is now time to decide.
The Prime Minister added that he understands that such a major reform, brings about varying opinions, often on opposite extremes. “That’s why we listened to what everyone had to say.”
“I found this debate to be an informed one. I believe that those who have submitted arguments against the Bill, have a major contribution on the establishment and functioning of the authority. That’s how a modern, strong democracy works.”
Fear is always used to oppose change
But on the other side, he added, we had those who tried to instil fear. Fear has been a constant factor used by those who oppose change. Fear is always a consistent factor because some people oppose change. From divorce, to marriage equality, to the new IVF law.
The Prime Minister hailed the authorities for stepping up their efforts against drug trafficking, with among the largest drug seizures in history.
“We want our armed forces to be to be focused on trafficking and not on the citizens who do not harm anyone. In recent months I have been clear that we can no longer accept that a person caught with a joint for personal use ends up being interrogated if not detained for a night at the lock up, and brought before a Tribunal or Court.”
He added that the position adopted by the Opposition actually encourages the black market.
The new law is based on harm reduction
He explained that the new legal framework is modelled on the principle of harm reduction.
“We’re not encouraging the consumption of cannabis. But we recognise that some would still opt to consume it, and we’re not treating these persons as criminals.”
The Prime Minister addressed the argument that people would be allowed to go to work or drive under the effect of cannabis, saying that the same principle of driving or working under the influence of alcohol applies.
He listed a number of safeguards included in the new framework which are built on the principle of harm reduction and the prevention of abuse.
Addressing parents, the Prime Minister said that the Government is looking at a holistic approach which includes more education on the responsible use of cannabis.
On the other hand, the Prime Minister added, we have an opposition which until a few weeks ago told us that we they would support this Bill, accusing us of copying its proposals. But then there was a change of heart and launched an attack on this reform.
“This stance showed a lack of leadership by the Opposition Leader, as acknowledged by the media, academics and even people within his same party. This shows that no one can trust the Opposition.
It’s easy to write a slogan about change. But first you have to believe in it, have the courage to work for it, and then the ability and authority to implement it.
When we talk about change we should not just talk about choosing parties. But what kind of country we want to see, which issues require our attention. The status quo is never an option for us,” said the Prime Minister.