The harm reduction approach that we advocate for personal cannabis use has three key considerations at its center: first, we must stop criminalizing adults for voluntarily using cannabis; Second, once personal cannabis possession is decriminalized, a safe and regulated way of obtaining cannabis should be in place; and third, that a regulator must be put in place to strictly regulate this regulated path for the ultimate benefit of the safety of cannabis users, society at large, and the protection of vulnerable members of our communities, including children.

There are a number of foreign jurisdictions or states that have either implemented a harm reduction approach (to varying degrees) or have even gone so far as to fully legalize cannabis. Each jurisdiction has its own story and no model is exactly a copy of the other. There are cases where change has been driven by proactive and forward-thinking governments (like Canada) and others where change has been driven down the throats of politicians, largely through activism and popular initiatives of local people and civil society (like Colorado) .

Once our cannabis reform law comes into effect, Malta will be the first country in Europe to offer a comprehensive legal framework to reduce harm to personal cannabis use. Other jurisdictions currently using this approach do so either on the basis of tolerance policies or on the basis of court rulings or through special provisions without full legal regulation.

Once our law is given the green light by Parliament, it will be a groundbreaking blueprint for other countries in Europe and elsewhere looking to regulate towards an equally comprehensive approach to harm reduction. Far from being “unfinished” or “hasty” or “leaves much to be desired” as some conservative critics say, the law we are proposing is well thought out and after careful consideration of the consultations we carried out earlier this year and the social law situations in the various jurisdictions, including those that have opted (unlike us) for the full legalization and commercialization of cannabis for personal use.

Those who paint another picture of darkness and doom, similar to what they did years ago in divorce and same-sex marriages, will be wrong again. Incidentally, I have full sympathy for all those parents who texted me or called me about the flow of emails they received from their children’s schools (church schools) asking them to sign a petition, proposing a number of changes to the cannabis reform law. All of this pressure can put parents in really embarrassing situations, but that will be a different conversation another time.


The Netherlands is a country that serves as an interesting case study. With regard to cannabis for personal use, she has taken a harm reduction approach since the 1970s. They haven’t passed formal laws or legal frameworks like we do – rather they have a formal written policy on non-enforcement of violations related to the possession or sale of a limited amount of cannabis.

The result was the sale of cannabis for the last five generations for personal use in licensed premises (so-called coffeshops) with clearly defined national criteria that include no advertising, a minimum purchase age of 18 years and a limit on the defined number of grams per person per day. Under the Dutch system, users can smoke cannabis on the premises – under the system we have put in place, this is not allowed and cannabis must be consumed at home.

Since all of this came into effect, cannabis use rates in the Netherlands have not changed dramatically for the Dutch when compared to their European neighbors, where cannabis is illegal. (MacCoun, “What can we learn from the Dutch cannabis coffee shop system?”, Seeks 106, No. 11 (2011)).

In addition, the number of people who use, have ever used, or have recently used cannabis is within the European average and the Netherlands has the lowest problem drug use in the EU. (Grund et al., “Drug Policy in the Netherlands”, European Drug Policy: Paths of Reform (2017).

A pilot project for a fully regulated personal cannabis market is currently under way in the Netherlands to steer possible policy changes beyond 2025, with a number of communities participating in a trial of coffee shops supplying cannabis under strict conditions within a regulated, closed loop will.

As part of the reform, of course, we are immediately establishing a new regulator that will establish strict rules and conditions within which cannabis can be grown and made available to members. In my opinion, this is a point that will make our harm reduction method more robust, safer and more future-proof.


I was completely surprised to read that one of the demands made at this late stage in the legislative process is by a number of anti-reform NGOs, and I quote verbatim, “remove the reference to education campaigns”. Mentioned in the bill to clearly maintain the current situation where government campaigns on drug use focus solely on preventive measures that explain the risks of cannabis use. “

As I have explained repeatedly, the cannabis reform provides for the establishment of a regulator that has two primary goals: Implementing harm reduction from cannabis use and helping other law enforcement and regulators fight dangerous drug crime.

One of the tasks of the new authority listed in the law is to organize or promote awareness-raising campaigns on the responsible use of cannabis based on scientific facts and with the aim of harm reduction, which also contain clear and impartial information on the risks and other elements of the Cannabis use in relation to age and with appropriate content, while at the same time encouraging open dialogue on the issue.

This effectively means that people who use cannabis receive impartial and scientific information about the risks of cannabis use, what to do with harm reduction, and the importance of responsible cannabis use, both for themselves and for themselves to other members of society.

How all this is a bad idea escapes me. And why all this makes the calculation “half-finished” and “rushed” escapes me even more. It might have been “half-baked” or “rushed” had this provision been omitted from the start!

I would like to give some thought to the other proposals put forward by the NGOs that oppose the reform.

One suggestion suggested that outlets where adult members could purchase cannabis for personal use should be located a kilometer from schools. This would in fact mean that the outlets could not be opened anywhere in Malta. We think that the length of 250 meters, i.e. the length of two soccer fields next to each other, from schools and any other meeting point for young people, is a good distance and serves the purpose of creating a distance between the sales points and the youth environment.

Another suggestion was to raise the age for cannabis use from 18 to 25. If we had to accept this proposal, it would mean that people between the ages of 18 and 25 who choose to use cannabis in person will remain criminalized and must continue to turn to crime in order to obtain cannabis. In Uruguay, cited by the same reviewers for different reasons, the minimum age for cannabis use is 18, as is the Netherlands and Canada.