Malta President Signs Legalization Bill Despite Opposition

Malta President George Vella signed the country’s national cannabis legalization bill into law in the face of opposition from Malta’s conservative party and more than 50 religious organizations.

Full story after the jump.

Malta President George Vella has signed the cannabis legalization bill passed by the Parliament last week while shutting down calls by those opposed to the reforms, saying the nation’s constitution prevented him from rejecting the lawmaker-approved bill, Malta Today reports. His comments, which did not mention the cannabis bill directly, came during an event commemorating the Republic in Independence Square in Victoria, Gozo.

“We hear calls that the president should do this and that but we need to be informed of what is possible… The head of state cannot capriciously create a constitutional crisis and cause instability… there is nothing in our Constitution that gives the president the final say on a law, otherwise we will create a dictator who decides what becomes law at a whim.” Vella, in remarks to Parliament, via Malta Today

The law, which was approved in a 36-27 vote, was opposed by the nation’s conservative party and by more than 50 church-led organizations. The reforms allow adults to possess up to seven grams in public, grow up to four plants for personal use, and will eventually create a system to regulate sales.

“Laws passed in Parliament according to the Constitution, have to be signed by the President almost immediately,” Vella said during his speech. “Otherwise, they will be taking on all the power and until now, the president has no power to ignore a law passed by Parliament irrespective if he agrees with it or not… unless he has a serious moral objection in which case the president will have to call it a day and resign.”

In a statement, Malta’s Minister for Equality, Research, and Innovation Owen Bonnici, who promoted the legalization law, said that the government “urges people to make the best choices for their wellness and therefore will keep investing in programs of prevention against all substance abuses” but that the government should also “respond to the realities in society and terminate the constant and unjust hardship and humiliation which the criminalization of adults who choose to make responsible use of cannabis brings about through their arrests and/or arraignments in front of tribunals or courts.”

“The entry into force of this robust legislative framework underlines this government’s willingness to make bold decisions by implementing wise and unprecedented reforms in order to bring about change and social justice in the best interests of society as a whole,” he said.

 

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