Updated 8.15pm, adds Opposition leader's comment

Prime Minister Robert Abela has confirmed plans to introduce a law that would end police arrests for those possessing a small amount of cannabis and plants for personal use.

The plans are to extend depenalisation for possession of Cannabis beyond 3.5 grams currently allowed by law and to introduce the right to grow a small number of Cannabis plants for personal use.

“It cannot be acceptable that a teenager who is caught with a joint is arrested, interrogated and has to appear in court or before the drug tribunal. I don’t believe this is the way forward.”

His comments come after an outcry over the arrest of a young couple caught with cannabis during a raid of their room at a St Julian's hotel on Saturday night. Officers were responding to a report filed. 

Prime Minister Robert Abela says it is not acceptable that a teenager caught with a joint is arrested. Video: Chris Sant Fournier

Police told Times of Malta that they had received information regarding possible drug trafficking and therefore proceeded to obtain a search and arrest warrant from the duty magistrate.

The couple were released but will be brought before the tribunal, police said.

Shortly afterwards, Home Affairs minister Byron Camilleri suggested that drug laws may need to be amended to prevent such arrests

Abela said that in both cases the amendments would not be excessive as he wished not to go from “one extreme to another”.

“We need to be responsible too as I don’t believe in extremes,” he said.

“We have been discussing this for a long time. When I was a lawyer myself I came across a number of cases of teenagers and students would end up in court for a small amount of cannabis which would cause great distress to their parents,” he said.

“I do not wish that this continues to happen.”

PN agrees to further decriminalisation of cannabis

In a post on Twitter later in the day, Opposition leader Bernard Grech said the Nationalist Party is in favour of further decriminalising possession of cannabis for responsible personal use, consistent with its position in 2015.

However, the law also had to address the social impact and provide safeguards against abuse. 

"Once draft legislation is published we will address and strengthen it," he said.



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