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Office's Position on the White Paper regarding Cannabis

Data tal-Pubblikazzjoni: Mej 24, 2021

The Office of the Commissioner for Children supports the position that cannabis cultivation and use should remain illegal for minors and very young adults.

The White Paper recognizes that children’s exposure to cannabis may increase as a result of the legal cultivation and use of cannabis by adults living in the same household as children. While the Office supports the proposed safeguards, namely that cannabis cannot be consumed in the presence of minors and that it is stored in places which are inaccessible to minors, it is concerned that the proposed safeguards may not go far enough in protecting children.

The White Paper is silent on the risk of children inhaling secondhand cannabis smoke even when the consumption of cannabis does not take place in their presence. The White Paper does not emphasise the need for cannabis consumers to ensure that they leave no traces of the consumed plant where children can find them.

The White Paper fails to provide any detail as to the legal framework for enforcing these safeguards. The Office believes that the infringement of these safeguards by the responsible adults should constitute a criminal offence, and that adherence to the same safeguards should be subject to a rigorous regulatory regime administered by the proposed Cannabis Authority that ties the cultivation and use of cannabis to strict conditions regarding exactly where within the habitation cannabis can be consumed and stored so as to minimize the risk for children. 

The Office agrees that the proposed legalization of cannabis should be accompanied by a strong drive to educate the public on the safe and responsible use of cannabis. Adults should be educated among other things on the importance of weighing the safety, needs and well-being of the children they care for in choosing if and when to consume cannabis, since failure to use cannabis safely and responsibly by adults would negatively impact the children for whom they are responsible.. Education should also extend to children so that they are aware of the different drugs, their effects on the individual and that there is no safe and responsible use of cannabis for children.

The Office believes that education and therapy should be at the heart of the State’s response to and treatment of minors who make illicit use of psychotropic drugs. In this respect, the Office agrees with the position taken in the White Paper in favour of the full decriminalisation of cannabis use by minors in that the criminal judicial process has serious and far-reaching ill-effects on children. The deterrence of children from illicit drug use is best achieved through education.

Decriminalising cannabis use by minors would not make it legal for minors to use cannabis. With the decriminalisation of cannabis by minors, minors would still be stopped from using cannabis, but this would not lead to any criminal action being taken against them (including police arrest), but would lead to administrative action being taken for them by way of referral to education and/or therapy sessions in order to help them realise how harmful cannabis use can be to their physical and mental health and that they should not make use of it.  Hence, the decriminalisation of cannabis use by minors would spare minors the trauma of a criminal procedure as well as the stain on their criminal record if they are convicted, but it would also provide a strong deterrent and remedy for children against using cannabis.  

Underpinning the decriminalisation of cannabis is the need for more investment in educational and therapeutic drugs-related services that are specific to children. The Office also calls for a national drug policy accompanied by a strategy with specific provisions for safeguarding minors and very young adults.