February is the month of love, unity, and kind thoughts for those most close to our hearts. Nonetheless, the joys and love that brings Valentine’s day, especially when considering the challenging social distancing provisions introduced in 2020 and extended in 2021, have been abruptly trampled for a young adult couple privately enjoying the consumption and sharing of cannabis. This is just a fraction of the number of people still persecuted and potentially risking incarceration for the personal non-violent consumption, cultivation and sharing of cannabis.
In the European Union, 40% of all law enforcement seizures are related to cannabis and in Malta it is THE most frequently seized drug. It is interesting to note that the National Report on the Drug Situation in Malta (2019) highlights that the ‘‘majority of cases in the criminal court that were decided in 2016 revolved around drug possession, with the highest number of cases attributed to the possession of cannabis’’.
Various political figures have repeatedly spoken about the negative effects of criminalising a non-violent act, nonetheless, there seems to be continuous stumbling blocks to move towards a more humane and human rights-based drug policy. The polarization of discourse pertaining to cannabis policy is unfortunately ignoring the main aims of a regulated not-for-profit policy framework and continues to negatively impinge on facilitating balanced and informed consultations.
It is therefore important to reiterate that people who consume cannabis for personal reasons do not forfeit their basic human rights, particularly: the right to health, the right to privacy and the right to the free development of the personality and should no longer be treated as dangerous criminals. A basic first step which could greatly contribute to the issues linked with the unjust criminalisation and ongoing human rights violations for people who consume cannabis, is the full decriminalisation of the personal cultivation, consumption and sharing of cannabis.
Without negating the important work carried out by local law enforcement agents to combat criminal organizations engaged in violent, high-level and cross-border illicit substance trafficking, it is important to recognise that the decriminalisation of personal consumption within a human right based and not-for-profit approach is advantageous on a tripartite level:
- Public Health; cannabis consumers can cultivate their own cannabis and ensure they know their THC:CBD contents, the type of strain and that the plant is free from pesticide and heavy metals.
- Reduced market monopoly by the criminal world; the establishment of collectives growing for the personal consumption and sharing of cannabis within an enclosed group of members (Cannabis Social Club) would substantially reduce the monopoly of the criminal market.
- Police resources redirected towards violent crime: would ensure local enforcement agents do not waste time and tax-payers money in persecuting a non-violent cannabis consumer that is choosing to cultivate, consume and share cannabis with other adults.
While you are reading this article, more people are being persecuted, arrested, interrogated, or awaiting judgment for a non-violent personal choice of consuming, cultivating or sharing cannabis. Will the year 2021 be a turning point for the human rights of people who consume cannabis in Malta?