A press conference held on the 29th of April, discussed a campaign titled, “Beyond the Influence Drug Use Awareness”, as well as outlined the results of the questionnaire report which was conducted recently. This action was co-funded by the European Parliament’s grant programme. The goal of this campaign is to raise the awareness regarding drug use and the local policies, as well as to open a dialogue for new discussions. This falls under the ‘YOUR FUTUREU’ umbrella campaign. This umbrella campaign involves another two campaigns, namely ‘The future is equal’, on gender equality, and ‘mind your health’, on mental health.
With regards to cannabis use, KSU had previously issued a policy paper in 2018 and the topic was revisited following the issue of the white paper this year, as it became more relevant. One point of criticism on this white paper was that further research should have been implemented, which would have allowed more fact-based arguments to be made. KSU believes in a more humane approach to drug rehabilitation, with the belief being not to immediately punish people by prison-time, but to provide the necessary support toward rehabilitation.
The questionnaire had a total of 976 respondents, with the mean ages ranging between 16-34 years. The results were divided into four sections, as indicated below:
Section 1: Recreational Drug Use of the Respondents
67% of individuals who responded to this questionnaire indicated that they had made use of drugs at least once in their lives. Moreover, 59% of this group are still making use of them today. Finally, almost all of the 67% cohort have tried cannabis while only 3% of respondents have used narcotics before. The results of this questionnaire also showed that men were more likely to still be using drugs.
Interestingly, 56% of respondents who tried drugs before did so between the ages of 17-19 years, indicating a relatively young age. When asked why they tried drugs, peer pressure was not considered to be highly influential on their decision. Instead, most cited curiosity, for the experience and for fun as primary reasons.
Section 2: Perception on Drug Use and on Different Substances
Most young adults were aware of the negative effects, with 75% agreeing that the use of drugs can lead to negative bodily harm. Additionally, most respondents indicated that cannabis does not act as a gateway drug to other drugs, as opposed to other substances. A point of interest was that both alcohol and tobacco were indicated to be more damaging than cannabis.
The accessibility to drugs locally was indicated to be relatively high, with cannabis being the most easily acquired drug in Malta, according to this questionnaire. This was followed by cocaine and MDMA (i.e. ecstasy).
Section 3: The Impact of COVID-19
67% of respondents believed that due to the current pandemic, drug use increased. Furthermore, apart from increase in use, respondents indicated that an increase in the frequency and in the quantity of drugs used was also likely.
Section 4: Current Local Laws
As a note, this questionnaire was circulated prior to the issue of the white paper. Following the partial decriminalisation recently, most respondents indicated that legalisation would be beneficial, in that it would limit drug-related crime and poor drug quality, which could lead to more harm. It was recognised that legalisation may however have adverse effects, such as an increase in consumption rate.
Most indicated that the penalty should vary depending on the type of the drug. Finally, a significant number of participants indicated that drug laws in Malta are not liberal enough, therefore indicating the need for further research and change in this area.
The full report of the questionnaire is now available using the following link or on KSU’s Facebook page.