The announcement of a new set of laws detailing the future of cannabis consumption in Malta was met with a strong national reaction – but what’s exactly in the white paper?
While it’s been praised for being very progressive in some areas, it’s also certainly lacking in other parts.
From growing to smoking in public and even some new legal definitions, here are eight things that would happen in Malta is this reform passes.
1. Each household can grow up to four plants.
One of the most widely aspects of the proposed reform, being given the legal right to grow cannabis plants for one’s own personal use was received warmly by Malta’s community.
Each household would be allowed to grow up to four plants. It doesn’t matter how many people live in that house, though if children are present, the plants need to be stored in places that are inaccessible to them.
The plants can’t be grown in a public area (like your balcony or roof) and can only be consumed within your home.
2. Decriminalisation of possession of under seven grams.
As it stands, it is depenalised to carry up to 3.5g of cannabis in public. The white paper proposes to double this amount and decriminalise it.
This means if you are found with up to 7g of cannabis, you cannot be subject to any legal proceedings, arrest or the imposition of any fine or punishment.
Adults can still be hauled in for interrogations if there’s a “reasonable suspicion of trafficking, sale, import or export”
While no model has been proposed regards buying or obtaining the cannabis commercially, a study has been proposed to discover “safe methods” of procuring cannabis. This would be to avoid people buying from the black market.
3. Administrative fines only for possession of up to 28 grams.
While under seven grams may be decriminalised, possessing more than seven grams but less than 28 grams for one’s exclusive personal use should lead to individual’s facing proceedings similar to being found with less than 3.5 grams currently.
4. Expungement of criminal records for anyone who was convicted for smoking a joint.
The right to remove a conviction years after a court found one guilty is a major step forward for Malta’s legal system. Expungement would mean people can apply to have a crime that was once illegal and no longer remains illegal removed from their criminal record. This would be a relatively simple process.
The white paper’s authors said that “past errors should not lead to present stigmatisation and lost opportunities”.
5. No more criminal procedures for minors.
Anyone under 18 found in possession of cannabis for their personal use will not be subject to proceedings before the Courts of Criminal Jurisdiction, but to administrative proceedings before the Commissioner for Justice and the Drug Offenders Rehabilitation Board.
Penalties would be of an administrative nature, not criminal, with an aim to assist minors to moving away from cannabis use.
Minors will not be arrested; however, they can still be hauled in for interrogation if there’s any reasonable suspicion of trafficking, sale, import or export.
6. The creation of a dedicated cannabis authority.
A governmental authority responsible for all matters relating to the responsible use of cannabis (excluding medicinal or scientific purposes) is being proposed.
This new authority would have the power to commission studies, propose improvements to the system, propose guidelines, and manage funds emanating from the imposition of administrative fines related to the breach of legal provisions related to cannabis.
7. Better education.
The government has been promising better education on cannabis for years now, with former Reforms Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli spending years “working” on a reform only for it to be a total letdown.
In the white paper, the authors propose that a “more effective, holistic educational campaign on cannabis is required, one which is based on scientific fact and the concept of harm reduction”.
Educational campaigns would aim to give clear information on the risks and benefits of cannabis use, by means of age appropriate content, and should aim to eradicate the stigma surrounding cannabis by instead promoting research and open dialogue on the cannabis plant.
They’ve also proposed better training for frontline officials working with cannabis users to increase awareness on cannabis use and its effects.
8. A distinction between CBD and THC at law.
There’s currently a legal lacuna in Maltese law when it comes to distinguishing between the non-psychoactive substance CBD and the psychoactive substance THC. While CBD products are often sold in high street medical stores like Boots in the UK, in Malta the sector remains unregulated.
Recently, the European Court of Justice ruled for a clear legal distinction between CBD and THC, and in light of that amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance to exclude medicinal cannabis from its sphere of application are being proposed.
BONUS: Public consumption will remain illegal.
Even though states like New York in the US legalised the possession of up to 90g of cannabis alongside allowing cannabis smoking anywhere tobacco smoking is allowed, Malta is not exactly there yet.
It is being proposed that the consumption of cannabis in public should not be allowed in any case. The relative punishment for this breach should be identical to the one imposed for the smoking of tobacco in prohibited spaces, and therefore, an administrative fine of €233.33.
The government is asking the general public to reflect on the proposals presented in this White Paper, and provide input as follows:
1. Where there is an issue with a specific proposal, a direct reference to the proposal is to be made, and comments about what needs to be added or removed are presented as briefly and directly as possible.
2. Where there is an issue that the proposals are silent or too generic about, the concern should first be explained, and ideally formulated in terms of a concrete proposal. Submissions are to be sent through the following channels:
By email: [email protected]
By post: Cannabis White Paper, Parliamentary Secretariat for Civil Rights and Reforms, Auberge d’Aragon, Misraħ Indipendenza Valletta Submissions should be sent by the 11 May 2021