An organization that advocates for the legalisation of cannabis in Malta has taken the government to task, as it highlighted the lack of promised legislative changes.
The organisation, known as Releaf, questioned the need for further police seizures and prosecutions related to possession, sale or cultivation of cannabis, especially given the fact the criminal justice system no longer considers it a liable offence.
Releaf also called out parliamentary secretary for reforms Rosianne Cutajar, pointing out that despite “government PR stunts” in favour of changes in cannabis laws, she is “delaying the introduction of much-needed legislative overhaul”.
The NGO questioned “incongruous” court judgments, referring to instances where cannabis consumers were given harsh sentences whereas in other cases the court had ruled that over 100g of cannabis were considered an amount for personal use.
Releaf said “the use and sale of cannabis is clearly up and running irrespective of its legal status”.
In light of this, the fact that authorities continue to prosecute consumers and growers points to a failure in “enacting legislation aimed to promote a more humane and evidence-based approach.”
Referring to the National Drug Report of 2019, Releaf said the majority of cases in the criminal court decided in 2016 were attributed to the possession of cannabis, in spite of the legal amendments of the Drug Dependence (Treatment not Imprisonment) Act of 2014.
In 2016 alone, there were 110 cases related to the possession of cannabis.
The drug dependence act was the legal amendment which declared that a person found in possession of a small amount of drugs for personal use is required to appear in front of the commissioner of justice, rather than the criminal court.
The amendment had also stated that persons found in possession of one cannabis plant for personal use is not liable to a mandatory prison term, a provision that “has been misinterpreted and abused by the criminal justice system”.
The organisation said that since the introduction of this act, no effective changes were made with the result that many cannabis consumers are still subjected to criminalisation, citing the case of Daniel Holmes as an example.
The organization called on the government to implement effective measures within the first quarter of 2021.
Releaf urged the government to fully decriminalise the adult cultivation and consumption of cannabis, to introduce a larger quantity margin for possession, and to create a system that allows for the right to health, privacy and accessibility for people who use cannabis.