Updated January 20 with second video

A recovering drug addict fears changes to local drug laws will encourage users to become traffickers - and has made that known in a video featuring inaccurate claims that's gone viral. 

Clint Camilleri used smarties, salt and cocoa powder to show what 500 ecstasy pills, 200g of cocaine and 200g of heroin look like. His video, posted to Facebook page Strada Rjali, amassed 66,000 views in less than 20 hours. 

What is the government proposing?

Camilleri's video is a reaction to a reform proposed by the government that will revise the maximum amount of drugs a person can be caught with and still be tried before a drug court. 

Introduced in 2015, drug courts focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment and can send a convicted person to time in rehab rather than jail. 

They only come into play when a court rules that drugs involved in the crime were not for personal use. 

In such cases, magistrates can choose to assign defendants to a drug court if they are caught with up to 300 grams of cannabis, 300 ecstasy pills or 100 grams of cocaine or heroin.

The government wants to increase those limits to 500 grams for cannabis, 500 ecstasy pills or 200 grams of cocaine or heroin, and give magistrates the option of appointing a drug court if they believe the accused person was committing drug-related crime due addiction issues. 

The proposal is currently open to public consultation.

Proponents of the government's idea say this will give magistrates more leeway when handling criminal suspects they believe are struggling with addiction issues.

They argue that many people have ended up kicking their drug habit and getting their life back on track, only to face the prospect of a long criminal sentence years after their drug crimes. 

What does the Opposition think?

But the plan to revise laws has been slammed by the Opposition, which says it will lead to drug traffickers being treated as victims.

The result will be having more drug traffickers within rehabilitation programmes, making it even harder for real victims to kick their habits. 

"The Nationalist Party does not want drug traffickers to be let off lightly, as the government wants, and it is objecting strongly to having the real victims of drugs and the traffickers being considered in the same way by the law," the PN said earlier this week.

What the video claims

In his viral video, Camilleri says the new amounts proposed are "scary" and incorrectly conflates them with the maximum amount of drugs allowed for personal use.

In reality, the proposed amendments have nothing to do with personal use limits. Instead, they concern crimes that will be heard by a drug court, which do not deal with cases related to personal use of drugs. 

Currently, anyone caught with seven grams of cannabis, two grams of cocaine or heroin or two pills of ecstasy is let off with an administrative fine. Anyone caught with larger amounts can also be let off - but only if a magistrate concludes the drugs were for personal use. 

In the video, Camilleri says that at the height of his drug use, he would take five ecstasy pills in a night. The maximum amount of pills he would take in one night would be five.

"With five I would be out of order: when I woke up I would not remember anything that happened the previous night. There were times I'd wake up in someone's kitchen, wondering where I was. 

"If I take five pills on Saturday and another five on Sunday, a stock of 500 pills would last me a year. How is a year's worth of pills considered personal use," he asks in the video. 

Camilleri makes a similar argument about cocaine and heroin, again incorrectly claiming that the amendments will increase personal use limits. 

A 200-gram stock of cocaine would last him 40 days if he took five grams a day, he says. 

"As an addict, my mind would start calculating: I'll keep five for myself and sell part of it. It feels like an invitation to sell some of it to turn a profit and buy even more," he says in the video.

Camilleri explains that an addict could mix 200g of pure cocaine with other substances and turn it into a kilo of drugs that can be spread over three months while still turning a profit. 

"There is so much pain out there that no one is aware of. I want to cry when I see this, remembering what I went through and where I am at the moment. I don't want anyone to go through what I went through."

In a second video posted by the Facebook page, Camilleri met with Justice Minister Jonathan Attard, who sought to better explain the government's plan and dispel fears that the changes are related to personal use of drugs.

Ministry: This is not about personal use

In reply to questions sent by Times of Malta, a spokesperson for the Justice Ministry reiterated that the amendments have nothing to do with laws governing personal use of drugs. 

It also noted that the ultimate decision will rest with the magistrate presiding over each case. 

The court must be “morally convinced of the accused’s prospects at rehabilitation," the spokesperson noted. 

“Whenever the court is faced with a drug trafficker, it will continue to regard him as a drug trafficker, thus enforce harsh and appropriate punishments,” the spokesperson said. 

“Furthermore, whoever is caught with any amount of drugs, even if it is less than the amounts in the schedule, and the Court thinks that the individual is not a person who was addicted to drugs, the person will be tried and penalised according to the law, based on the penalties that are already in place and which same penalties will not be amended.”

The spokesperson said the amendments are being proposed following a review of case law related to drug offences and following internal consultation with the Sentencing Policy Advisory Board. 

Furthermore, the new revised maximums will not allow quantities of illegal drugs below these numbers to be interpreted as being for personal use, the spokesperson said. 

“Possession with intent to supply can still be inferred, given the appropriate circumstantial evidence. It is most likely to be inferred from possession of amounts included in the guidelines in question but which are high enough to trigger such an inference,” she said.

“The law is not changing in this respect and the punishments applicable to possession with intent and to drug trafficking will still apply. The proposed changes would make no change to the elements of any drug offence.”

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