One of Malta’s and the EU’s leading MEPs Miriam Dalli has joined calls for a change in the country’s cannabis cultivation laws after a woman was sentenced to six months in prison for 6.5g of weed.
“The wording of the law needs to be amended if we want to ensure that the Court is not constrained to give a jail term when it is pretty evident that a person should not be imprisoned.”
“This ambiguous legal wording is resulting in a jail term, even when the amount of cannabis found is small and the Court is satisfied that it is for personal use.”
“The Court should be allowed to use a limited discretion in determining whether the facts in the case as submitted as proof would configure as personal use or not.”
“Any amendments which are deemed necessary should be introduced in a timely manner so as to ensure that the rights of other individuals are safeguarded,” Dalli told Lovin Malta.
Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar, the head of the party’s female wing Nikita Zammit Alamango and others have spoken out. However, Dalli, who got the most votes in this year’s elections and is often touted as a potential future leader, is certainly the biggest figure to lend her support to the issue.
Marie Claire Camilleri was sentenced at the end of October, despite confirming that she used cannabis to deal with anxiety and that she smoked around six joints per day.
The Magistrate overseeing the case, Natasha Galea Sciberras, even agreed Marie Claire was cultivating for personal use but insisted her hands were tied because of the wording of the law.
“The law fails to distinguish between who truly deserves effective imprisonment suitably,” her judgement read.
Marie Claire’s lawyer, Joe Giglio, has launched an appeal, explaining that “people should not go to prison on account of a bad law which, as drafted, defeats the very scope for which it was intended.”
On a political level, Justice Minister Owen Bonnici has said he is looking into the case. However, having overseen the reform that left this gaping hole, it remains to be seen if, when, and how effective changes will be.
The issue is not new, having been flagged by the same magistrate, lawyers, and cannabis activists in the past, namely Franco Debono who began championing the issue about three years ago.