A 39-year-old woman who was reluctantly imprisoned by the courts for cultivating six small cannabis plants for her own use due to a “draconian” drug law, has appealed the six-month jail term.

“People should not go to prison on account of a bad law which, as drafted, defeats the very scope for which it was intended,” the woman’s lawyer, Joseph Giglio, said in a statement.

The case dates back to July 2014 when police searched the Sliema home of Marieclaire Camilleri and found six small cannabis plants in one small pot. The amount of cannabis found totaled 6.83 grams. .

Last month Magistrate Natasha Galea Sciberras said that, while she was convinced that Ms Camilleri cultivated the plant for her personal use, the way the "draconian" law was worded left her no choice but to jail her.

The flaw in the law

The 2014 drug law reform introduced Article 7 of the Drug Dependence Act. This was meant to distinguish between people who cultivate for their personal use and traffickers, to ensure that the former don’t end up behind bars.

The article states: “A person found guilty of cultivating the plant cannabis in a small quantity not exceeding one plant, in circumstances where the Court is satisfied that such cultivation was for personal use, shall not be liable to a mandatory term of imprisonment.”

The magistrate noted that while the law intended to ensure those found guilty of simple possession of small quantities of drugs were not jailed but fined, it was failing to achieve this goal and forced the courts to jail people even if the courts were convinced they did not deserve imprisonment, the magistrate ruled as she ordered a copy of her ruling to be sent to Justice Minister Owen Bonnici.

It makes no sense that, on account of flawed drafting, people’s lives are trampled upon in this way.

Questions sent to the Justice Ministry on Monday, asking whether action will be taken, remain unanswered. 

A law that tramples on lives

In a statement, Dr Giglio said “it makes no sense to have a situation where a court has to send a person to prison when it does not want to do so. It makes no sense that, on account of flawed drafting, people’s lives are trampled upon in this way.”

The amount of cannabis found in this case was of 6.83 grams all contained in one small pot. According to this new law, being in possession of not more than 3.5 grams, means you are not even taken to court. Yet, if you decide to grow your own cannabis rather than buy it from a drug trafficker, and your plant sprouts out to more than one plant then you face a mandatory prison term of at least six months minimum, he said.

“Such a situation, clearly, has caused a lot of anxiety and stress to my client and is a potential threat to people who opt to grow their own cannabis rather than purchase it. We sincerely hope that this situation is addressed either by the court or, ideally by the legislator who has created this mess in the first place,” Dr Giglio said.


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