There are no reasonable objections to the government’s latest marijuana bill. The famous case of Daniel Holmes who was sentenced to ten years in prison for owning five cannabis plants shocked the nation and brought more awareness about the excessive ruthlessness of Malta’s drug laws. The government is allegedly introducing a law that will be more lenient on cannabis users by opening cannabis clubs and allowing limited possession.
There is no reasonable objection to the law being passed and I’m not going to enter into this very shallow debate because it’s not the point of this blog post. Supposedly we don’t live in a dictatorship and therefore we don’t need to waste our time with shallow debates on what people can and can not smoke in their own privacy and property. Here, I want to give the back story and the context to a law that is being hailed by the government as a great progressive step forward. But not only. Prime Minister Robert Abela is hailing this law as a
great offensive against the marijuana black market. The ex-bodybuilding gym-champ is putting on his superhero dark knight mantle and is storming the underworld stylishly and suited up Bruce Wayne style.
Only that he isn’t. This is more like Don Quixote fighting the windmills thinking they are dragons or something of that sort. There are very good reasons why this law misses the point and stops short of radical reform. This is a law made out of political expediency and does not address the structural problems within the market and neither doesn’t do justice to marijuana users.
First of all, Robert Abela doesn’t care about marijuana. The village lawyer mindset of the prime minister is limited to a conservative wall of stupidity that fails to develop new ideas and intellectual development. Abela does not care about your individual rights to smoke or whatever and he genuinely doesn’t even believe in the law itself. He is one of those gym rats who would be fine with taking high-performance steroids but thinks that illegal drugs are an abomination simply because the law says so. Through this law, Abela believes that he can sell himself to the youth and in fact, it is the only thing that he can sell them. This is why the law is half-baked and comes in the form of partial criminalisation. Abela wants to keep the law restrictive so next time round he would pass another version of the law making it even more lenient with the intention to keep milking the political cow out of this issue. This is of course the wrong approach and the local marijuana lobby is apparently very happy to play along with this game.
The marijuana lobby should be more honest about the reform instead of jumping like lapdogs on every time a politician offers them something. This law is not even full decriminlisation. Maruijana is still listed as a dangerous drug and therefore it is still a serious criminal offense to possess and sell it. You are only allowed to possess 7 grams and if you possess more than that you will be fined. You will be charged with serious criminal charges if you possess more than 28 grams and you can also be sent to jail for ten years or more for “trafficking” in marijuana. The government is simply allowing you to hold 7 grams of marijuana bought from official stores acting as clubs. You can also not hold more than 50 grams of the marijuana plant.
There is also no discussion about an important issue which the law should address despite the glaringly obvious problem which has been recently exposed by the press. Malta’s prison has a problem of overpopulation and the law does not come with a target at significantly reducing Malta’s prison population – it is in this regard that the law defeats its own purpose.
It is logical here, that the intentions of the law are devious and even nefarious because why allow a black market to exist in the first place if you want to eradicate it? And who is this evil black market that Abela is speaking about?
The marijuana black market in Malta has changed a lot since my teenage years and is no longer a lucrative business. The small number of people who take the high risk to contraband marijuana make a bigger profit than the wholesalers who they sell it to but the wholesalers aren’t making much money themselves let alone the retail sellers. Put it simply the marijuana business is no longer lucrative as it used to be and most people selling it as retailers and wholesalers barely make ends meet. There are very small rewards compared to the high risk of importing marijuana. Strong and enterprising criminals don’t deal in marijuana – they deal in cocaine, government contracts, and building permits, and washing money. Yet, this is the future that our prime minister is building for our youth. A country where decent homes are only affordable for the rich while the poor can console themselves with seven grams of weed.
Don Quixote is waging a war on an imaginary enemy and as expected it is all about him. The youth can be helped and supported with a war against homelessness, a war against precarious work, and a war against corruption and rent seeking, only that Don Quixote is not capable of these heroic tasks, so is he is waging war on sub-Saharan immigrants who sell weed in the street yet barely make ends meet.
You are either going to decriminalise marijuana or you aren’t. Partially decriminalising marijuana to let the door open for more decriminalisation later is outright political expediency and exploitation of people who need to buy the product itself. However, there is more.
Abela is also successfully using the marijuana issue to rehabilitate corrupt politicians. Owen Bonnici, who as minister of justice covered up for Joseph Muscat’s corrupt regime, and Rosianne Cutajar of Yorgen Fenech fame, are both political candidates for the next general election who wouldn’t be voted in parliament other than by the hardcore of the Labour Party itself. Allowing them to exploit the marijuana issue will normalise their re-entry into mainstream politics.
An honest marijuana reform would have legalised the product and allowed its regulated commercialisation and that is how you defeat a black market. In addition, government could have taken a golden opportunity out of this reform by addressing the crisis in the agricultural sector by buying out agricultural land through the National Development Fund in tandem with the legalization and commercialization of marijuana. But, no. Let’s spend thirty million Euros on a car race track in an industrial estate instead and have some fun.
Għal ġol ħajt, bro. Dawwar ġojnt, mhux xorta? Ok, ħabib?