A judge has called out ineffective cannabis laws after she was forced to sentence two men to six months in prison for just 16g of weed.
The men, David Strba and Zdenko Klein, both born in Slovakia, were first found guilty of growing three cannabis plants for their personal use in 2015 but had their sentence confirmed in an appeal case in front of Judge Consuelo Scerri Herrera last month.
While one plant was carrying 13g, the other plants had just 0.6g and 2.6g respectively. The purity of the weed was around 3%.
Scerri Herrera agreed that a suspended sentence or a probation record would have been much more appropriate for the pair, especially given their clean conduct.
“But this court’s hands are tied,” Scerri Herrera said.
The issue is not new. In October, a Maltese woman was sentenced to six months in prison for being in possession of a measly 6.5 grams of cannabis.
The court even agreed that Marie Claire Camilleri, who said she smoked six joints a day, used cannabis to deal with anxiety.
The magistrate overseeing the case even noted that it “fails to suitably distinguish between who truly deserves effective imprisonment”. Camilleri is appealing the case.
According to law, any person who is found guilty of growing more than one plant of cannabis is liable to a minimum six-month sentence regardless of the weight.
In both cases, they would have been better served with one massive plant, rather than the smaller ones they had at home.
Criminal lawyer Franco Debono, who headed an attempted justice reform, has flagged this several times, especially the ‘one plant’ rule, among other anomalies.
Justice Minister Owen Bonnici said he will be “seriously looking into” the recent case of Camilleri, even if he was the one who oversaw the reform that left this gaping hole. But with a political crisis to divert his attention, he seems to have completely ignored Camilleri.