Position Statement on recreational(non-medical) cannabis

Please find the full version of our Position Statement: Recreational Cannabis Position Statement[PDF,666KB]

On Friday 13th July 2018 the Malta Association of Public Health Medicine (MAPHM) was invited to discuss with the Hon. Julia Farrugia Portelli MP (Parliamentary Secretary for Reforms, Citizenship and Simplification of Administrative Processes) the Government’s reform on the use of cannabis for non-medical purposes.

In this context, the MAPHM has put forward its position on this issue. Given the potential adverse effects of cannabis use, its addictive potential and the paucity of research and evidence on the health and social effects of recreational cannabis legalisation, the MAPHM is against the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use.
Only very few countries namely Uruguay, some states in the United States and recently Canada have legalised recreational cannabis use. Since the relationship between legalisation and prevalence of use is not yet clear, there is a risk that increased availability and access to cannabis due to its legalisation could potentially lead to a decrease in risk perception, an increase in prevalence and/or frequency of use, and a consequent rise in adverse health effects attributed to cannabis. In places where cannabis has been legalised, several public health issues have become increasingly relevant and are the subject of ongoing research and surveillance. These include: the effects of different methods of cannabis use, amounts consumed, and time since using on the ability to drive and on rates of motor vehicle accidents; unintentional ingestion of cannabis products by children; and the relationship between cannabis use and use of other drugs.

shallow focus photography of cannabis plant
Photo by Michael Fischer on Pexels.com

However, should Government decide to proceed with legalization in spite of the above concerns, as a minimum MAPHM strongly advises the adoption of a harm reduction approach that focuses on prevention, education, treatment and the implementation of a robust regulatory framework to ensure public safety and protection. These measures are especially important to prevent uptake for those aged under 21 years since individuals with ongoing brain development are more at risk of adverse effects from cannabis use. All this requires the allocation of adequate financial and human resources with relevant expertise to implement, monitor and evaluate the regulatory framework, as well as monitor and evaluate the impact of the legislation.

MAPHM’s position against legalisation of recreational cannabis is in line with the position of other international Medical Associations including the American Medical
Association (AMA) and the World Medical Association (WMA) who oppose the legalisation of recreational cannabis due to its serious adverse health effects.

Similarly, the Royal College of Physicians of London, the Faculty of Public Health (FPH) and the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) are in favour of decriminalising and not legalising recreational cannabis.

A noteworthy and insightful quote from the Lancet Oncology (2017) editorial
reinforces this position statement:

“Crucially, at a time when countries and governments are just starting to control the cancer epidemic caused by tobacco smoking, we must ensure that we do not legalise another inhalable product that could lead to another major public health crisis in 20
years’ time”

Please find the full version of our Position Statement: Recreational Cannabis Position Statement[PDF,666KB]

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