Twenty-three organisations that opposed cannabis reform have said confusion within the sector’s regulatory authority confirms their fears that legislation was rushed through.

In a statement issued on Saturday, organisations led by Caritas Malta said there was a growing perception within society that cannabis use was now “free for all”. Meanwhile, structures cited in the law intended to regulate its use “are conspicuous by their complete absence.”

The statement comes 10 days after the government unceremoniously sacked Mariella Dimech as head of the Authority for the Responsible Use of Cannabis (ARUC), just 10 months into the job.

ARUC is responsible for regulating so-called cannabis associations that will be allowed to grow and sell cannabis to registered members. But the authority has yet to issue regulatory guidelines, let alone licence associations.

In a Times of Malta interview held just days before Dimech was fired, prime minister Robert Abela said he was frustrated by the delays and was “pushing” for things to move faster.

Following her sacking, Dimech said she had been left without staff or resources and disagreed with the government’s policy direction. She did not elaborate further.

The NGOs that issued Saturday’s statement echoed those criticisms, saying it appeared the government seemed keener to legislate for cannabis reform than to dedicate the Resources needed to set up a strong authority to regulate the sector.

“We augur [sic] that the cannabis authority would be given the necessary resources to develop the appropriate structures to regulate such a sensitive sector in a manner which protects the interests of the most vulnerable members of society, particularly children and youths,” they said, adding that they hoped the government would listen to their feedback in the future.

Similar criticism has been made by lawyer and former MP Franco Debono, who argued last week that the government should have set up licenced cannabis associations before passing a law allowing for the drug's recreational use. 

Questions surrounding new ARUC chair

ARUC is now headed by Leonid McKay, whose professional history is closely linked to Caritas, which led opposition to the cannabis reform. Those ties – McKay was a Caritas director for several years – have led cannabis reform group Releaf to say it has no faith in his work.

McKay’s appointment, Releaf said, is a “direct insult” to the spirit of the cannabis reform law, given Caritas’ long-standing prohibitionist approach to cannabis use.

Given McKay’s past advocacy against any form of cannabis reform, Releaf asked how the local cannabis community could be assured that his ARUC appointment “will represent their rights and continue to build a human rights-based framework allowing the creation of a community, not industry, driven approach?”

NGOs opposed to cannabis reform that signed Saturday’s statement:

  • Caritas Malta
  • Malta Association of Psychiatry
  • Fondazzjoni OASI
  • Maltese Association of Social Workers
  • Richmond Foundation
  • Kamra tal-Ispiżjara
  • Malta Employers Association
  • Secretariat for Catholic Education
  • Anti poverty Forum
  • Church Schools Association
  • Alleanza Kontra l-Faqar
  • Independent Schools Association
  • Gozo Tourism Association
  • Karl Vella Foundation
  • Gozo Business Chamber
  • Dar Osanna Pia
  • Dar Tal-Providenza
  • Fondazzjoni Paolo Freire
  • Millenium Chapel
  • St Jeanne Antide Foundation
  • Dar Merħba Bik
  • Kummissjoni Ġustizzja u Paci
  • Fondazzjoni Sebħ

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