Growing cannabis in Malta for personal use could result in less harsh penalties if the government accepts a recommendation which it says it is “actively considering”.
Somebody caught growing more than one cannabis plant in Malta currently faces a mandatory jail term. But Magistrate Natasha Sciberras – who handles the bulk of drug cases on the island – has said there should be more discretion on the number of plants once it is evident that the cultivation was for personal use. This could mean that growing more than one plant could be considered for personal use and therefore not result in a mandatory jail term.
The discussion arose during a forum organised by the Justice Ministry last week. According to an article by Orizzont, all those present for the forum agreed with the need for the law to be refined, including the police, the chairman of the Rehabilitation Board, the Justice Commissioner, the Attorney General, and representatives of Caritas Malta, Sedqa and Fondazzjoni Oasi.
Justice Minister Owen Bonnici told Lovin Malta the government was “actively considering” this issue as part of its ongoing refinement of the drug reform.
The magistrate reportedly also recommended for there to be a better distinction between those who traffic drugs regularly and those who share a small amount of drugs with friends as a one off. Sharing is still considered trafficking and results in an automatic prison term, according to the current law.
So wait a second, is growing cannabis legal?
Malta decriminalised cannabis possession in 2015. While it’s still technically not legal, possession of cannabis up to 3.5 grams can only result in a fine between €50 and €100 and users are not taken to court (even though police can detain you for up to 48 hours to extract information on traffickers).
Cannabis cultivation could result in a court case but if you only have one plant and you can convince the court it was for your personal use, a mandatory prison term is not applicable. Here’s what the law actually says:
7. 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 or to the exclusion of the application of a probation order or of the suspension of a term of imprisonment provided for in the drug laws.
Translation: It’s illegal to grow weed, but if you only have one plant and can convince the court that it’s for your own personal use, you won’t go to jail or get a suspended sentence. Presumably, you’ll just get a fine.
And if the proposal gets accepted, this would apply to more than one plant.
What happens to your money when you pay a drug fine?
The vast majority of fines related to drug possession (not just cannabis) are being donated straight to the organisations which provide rehabilitation programmes to drug abusers.
Just last week, Justice Minister Owen Bonnici distributed €45,000 to Sedqa, Caritas and Fondazzjoni Oasi, giving each organisation €15,000.