Justice Minister Owen Bonnici will be “seriously looking into” the recent case that saw a Maltese woman sentenced to six months in prison for being in possession of a measly 6.5 grams of cannabis.
However, he explained to Lovin Malta that he will only float changing the law and potentially intervening in the case itself once he ascertains all the facts around the case.
“I assure you I am taking this very seriously, but it’s a delicate matter and we cannot rush into it,” Bonnici said.
Marie Claire Camilleri was sentenced at the end of October, despite confirming that she used cannabis to personally deal with anxiety and that she smoked around six joints per day.
The issue, as noted by the Magistrate overseeing the case, revolves around the law surrounding the cultivation of cannabis, noting that it “fails to suitably distinguish between who truly deserves effective imprisonment.”
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 Marie Claire’s case, she would have been better served with one massive plant, rather than the six small ones she had at her home.
However, Bonnici said that changes would have to be approached with caution, fearing that Malta could end up in a situation where mass cultivation of cannabis at your home is encouraged.
The magistrate did suggest that sentencing in such cases should sometimes be under the discretion of the courts. But Bonnici doesn’t seem to agree, elaborating that it was imperative to streamline laws when it comes to personal use
It should be noted that before Bonnici headed decriminalisation reform, people could be sent to prison for simple possession, meaning that changes have had some sort of effect.
However, with people still being sent to prison for such small amounts, it’s clear that some gaps must be addressed.
The issue is not even new, having been raised by the same magistrate in the past. Meanwhile, top criminal lawyer Franco Debono, who headed at attempted justice reform, has flagged this a number of times, especially the ‘one plant’ rule, among other anomalies.