Young People’s Views on Cannabis

The aim of this publication is to provide exactly that  – an apolitical, research-based and balanced view of what the KNŻ believes should be the best course of action on the legalisation of cannabis consumption on a  recreational basis.

The National Youth Council and Aġenzija Żgħażagħ commissioned Misco to carry out research among  young people with the objective to: 

  • Provide an insight into the opinions of young people  regarding the use of cannabis for recreational use.
  • Understand the perceptions and attitudes of young  people with regard to how cannabis should be handled  if legalised; 
  • Gauge the perceived impacts young people believe  legalisation would have on the use of cannabis. 

The report contains six sections covering different  aspects. These relate to the opinions as to whether  the use of cannabis for recreational use should be  legalised, perceptions on the use of cannabis, handling  of cannabis, information on cannabis, consequences of  legalisation on the use of cannabis. 

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Introduction

The research was carried out by means of Computer Aided Telephone Interviewing (CATI) method, with a total of 350 young people, aged 16 to 35 years old, across Malta and Gozo, according to a quota representative of the population in Malta and Gozo for this age group.

Interviewers involved in the project were selected from MISCO’s pool interviewers, who are all experienced and have been trained to carry out market research interviews. All interviewers were briefed on the purpose and method of the research before initiating fieldwork.

4.1 Stand On Cannabis

Results have shown that there was only a slight difference between those in favour of using cannabis for recreational purposes (47%) and those against (49%) and the remaining 4% did not express an opinion.

Those ages from 16 and 17 years are in their majority against the use of cannabis, while those aged 18 to 29 seemed more likely to be in favour with the use of cannabis for recreational use. The biggest difference in responses is noted in individuals aged 30 to 35. The majority of females (57%) claimed to be against the notion of recreational cannabis.

The vast majority of those individuals who claimed to be either in favour or uncertain of their position on recreational cannabis, agreed that cannabis should have restrictions similar to those on alcohol and tabacco. The highest percentage of those individuals who do not believe such restrictions should be enforced were aged 16 to 35 years who have a very liberal view on the use of cannabis for recreational purpose and its use should be unregulated

4.2 Perceptions on the use of cannabis

The majority of the young people (66%) claimed that, when required, they obtained information about cannabis through the internet. The next most common response given was a doctor (35%). Although they did not have a ligh level of incidence, among the answers given, some young people claimed that they obtain information from Caritas and Sedqa. Age and gender seem to have slight to no influence on the source of information.

49% of young people consider cannabis as a possible gateway drug that could potentially lead to hard drugs. 42% are against this view while 9% did not express an opinion. Those aged between 25 and 29 had the highest rate of young people who do not perceive cannabis as a gateway drug. Those aged between 16 and 17 were move likely to consider cannabis as maybe leading to harder drugs.

4.3 Handing Of Cannabis

57% of young people think that cannabis should be available and supplied through the use of private shops with a specialized license. Other common response included privately owned pharmacies (33%) and goverment run office or dispensary (27%). All age groups expect 16-17, were more likely to choose private shops with a specialized license to supply cannabis. The majority of young people aged between 16 and 17 were more likely to choose privately owned pharmacies as a source to supply recreational cannabis.

The majority of young people (70%) agreed that prospect users should be declared medically fit in order to be able to use cannabis for recreational purposes. All different age groups had significantly high rates of young people who agree with testing prospective users. The age group with the lowest rate of young people in favour of such tests (63%) were those aged between 30 and 35.

51% claimed that the government should keep a register of recreational users. There was only a slight difference between those who agreed and disagreed. In fact 44% disagree with this opinion and 5% did not express an opinion.

The biggest difference in responses is found among individuals aged between 16 and 17.72% agreed that a register should be kept, whereas only 18% did not agree. Those aged between 25 and 29 were more likely to disagree with the concept of maintaining a register of recreational users, with 48% agreeing and 50% disagreeing

The study shows that females are more in favour than men of the government having a register of recreational users, standing at 54% and 49% respectively. The southern and western parts of the country had the highest rate of individuals in favour of maintaining a register (60%), whereas Gozo and the lowest (35%).

Those individuals against the use of cannabis for recreational purposes were mostly in favour of the government keeping a register (61%), whereas, the majority of those in favour of the government keeping a register (61%), whereas, the majority of those in favour of recreational (54%) were against the notion of having a register. Noticeably, the majority of individuals in favour of regulated use of cannabis (57%) were against the maintaining of a register of recreational users and those in favour of unregulated use of cannabis were mostly (59%) in favour of such a notion.

74% of the young people stated that cannabis users should not be able to grow their own plants. Females were more likely than males to be against this notion, with having 68% of males disagreeing and 79%of females. The majority (64%) of those in favour of using cannabis for recreational purposes were  still against the notion of having users grow their own plants.

73% of those individuals not against home growing cannabis for personal use, still claimed that there should be restrictions on such a practice. In all regions there was a significantly large amount of individuals who agreed that there should be some form of restriction, with the exception of Western region. Noticeably, the majority of individuals in favour of unregulated use of cannabis were still in favour of having restrictions on home growers.

Those individuals who are not against home growers while agreeing that some restrictions should apply, were asked to specify the type of restrictions that should be imposed. The most common restriction mentioned (65%) was that on the number of plants. The other most common restriction mentioned was reducing the accessibility to plants.

60% of the young people agreed that smoking cannabis should have similar restrictions to that of smoking tobacco. Another 37% stated that smoking cannabis for recreational use should only be allowed indoor in private property. Only 3% stated that there should be no restrictions.

51% of young people disagree with the idea that the use of cannabis for recreational purposes could be promoted or marketed, 44% agree with the notion, while 5% did not express an opinion. The majority of all age groups, expect for individuals aged 18 to 24 Years, were against the promotion and marketing of cannabis. The majority of females (59%) claimed to be against the marketing of cannabis, whereas among males the indication is not as definite.

54% of those individuals in favour of a regulated use of cannabis agree that the use of cannabis for recreational use should be promoted and marketed, while only 31% of those in favour of unregulated use of cannabis agree that cannabis may be marketed and promoted. (Chart 25)

83% of young people agree that when it comes to selling cannabis, should cannabis be legalised, regulations similar to those in force for tabacco and alcohol, should apply. 92% of young people also agree that there should be a minimum stipulated age for the consumption of cannabis. 84% of those individuals in favour of unregulated use of cannabis, still agree that there should be a minimum stipulated age restricting cannabis use. (Chart 26)

Those individuals who agree that there should be a minimum stipulated age of consumption, were asked to specify what this age should be. 96% agreed that it should be 18 or over. None of those individuals aged between 16 and 17 claimed that 16 should be the minimum stipulated age of consumption

73% of young people agreed that there should be a limit on the amount of cannabis consumed for recreational use. Those aged between 16 and 17 years had the highest percentage who claimed that there should be such a limit. Females were more likely (76%) to agree that the amount of cannabis use should be limited.

4.4 Information on Cannabis

The majority (83%) of young people agreed that young people should have access to information on the responsible recreational use of cannabis. Those aged between 16 and 17 years were most likely to disagree with such a notion. The majority of young people who were in favour of the idea of the dissemination of information on responsible recreational use of cannabis among young people, claimed that such information should be acquired from the educational institution they attend (55%). Other prominent responses included health care centers or hospitals (52%), internet (47%) and social media (44%). Individuals aged between 16 and 17 years mostly claimed that such information should be provided from either the internet or social media.

4.5 Consequences of legalisation

The majority of young people (65%) claimed that should cannabis be legalized, consumption would increase either by a great deal or by a little deal. Similar opinions are reflected across all age groups. Only 8% believe that the consumption would decrease 24% believe that consumption would remain the same, while 3% did not express an opinion.

Young people were then asked whether, should consumption increase, would it continue to increase or would it increase temporarily and then stabilize. 54% claimed that it would eventually stabilize. The majority of those individuals (63%) in favour of the use of cannabis for recreational use believe that consumption increase temporarily and then stabilize.

4.6 Patterns of use of cannabis

73% of young people agree that people reach a phase where they are more prone to start using cannabis. 76% of females agreed with this view, whereas 71% of males agree with such a view. 62% of young people who believe that individuals pass from such a phase believe that this would happen through the teenage years.