Updated 10.30am

Leonid McKay, the former director of Caritas, is to be appointed to head the cannabis authority after its previous chairperson announced she had been dismissed from the post.

In a statement on Friday morning, Mariella Dimech said her job had been terminated. She said she had worked with "no functional office, no staff, no budget and a political strategy and decision strategy I disagreed with". 

Times of Malta revealed she will be replaced by McKay, who will leave his post as chief executive of the Housing Authority to take up the role. 

The Authority for the Responsible Use of Cannabis, which regulates the use of the drug after it was legalised almost a year ago, has failed to issue any licenses to associations wanting to sell the substance.

In an interview with Times of Malta last weekend, Prime Minister Robert Abela acknowledged the slow progress.

The appointment was announced later on Friday.

Government sources said the decision was made "as the need for new leadership was felt in order for the authority to achieve the goals it was set up for".

As chief executive of the Housing Authority, McKay oversaw the implementation of new rent laws.

He was director of Caritas Malta from 2014 to 2018 and held the role of Chairman of the Foundation for the Rehabilitation of Drug Abusers. 

Meanwhile, the government announced that Matthew Zerafa had been appointed as chief executive of the Housing Authority. He was previously head of secretariat in the Social Accommodation Ministry. 

The law regulating cannabis brought about immediate changes, including that a person can grow up to four plants at home and no longer be arrested for the personal use of up to 7 grams of the drug.

However, the authority was to regulate the sector, including the clubs, and to run an education campaign.

The board announced last year also includes criminologist Janice Formosa Pace as deputy chairperson, Nadine Brincat, Sina Bugeja, Marius Caruana, Charles Cassar, Gabriel Farrugia, Paul Micallef and Charles Scerri.

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