Flaws in Malta’s cannabis rules raise concerns

David Caruana says law enforcement officials are wrongly assuming that anyone caught cultivating more than one plant is doing so for trafficking purposes


Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Almost five years ago, a leading Maltese cannabis activist prompted the government to tidy up its drug laws; nothing has changed. David Caruana is not giving up on his quest to straighten things out, however. He says that the current law is flawed.

According to Malta’s existing cannabis law, being in possession of one cannabis plant is legal, no matter how big the yield. Conversely, anyone who grows two or more plants faces a minimum of six months behind bars, even if the plants have not even sprouted from the seed yet.

Cannabis activist emailed Prime Minister warning him about Malta’s cannabis rule flaw

(Pictured) Cannabis activist, David Caruana, is unhappy with Malta’s cannabis rule flaw

On January 27, 2015, Caruana sent an email to the Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. In his email, he elaborates on the flaws and inaccuracies in Malta’s cannabis law rules. The Maltese cannabis activist– who is a partner at KPMG in Malta for Advisory Services – alerted the government about the fact that Malta’s cannabis decriminalization law contains numerous inconsistencies.

Cannabis in Malta remains legal, but has been decriminalized. The plant was legalized for medical purposes in 2018. According to Caruana, policies contained in the regulatory framework are questionable and need to be clarified in order for the industry and its consumers to thrive.

“After this reform, if a person is found growing two plants and the police themselves testify that all the evidence shows they were for personal use, the judge will still have their hands tied and will be forced to sentence the person as a drug trafficker since the law states:

‘(1B) For the purposes of this article the word ‘dealing’ (with its grammatical variations and cognate expressions) with reference to dealing in a drug, includes cultivation, importation in such circumstances that the Court is satisfied that such importation was not for the exclusive use of the offender,’” reads an excerpt from the email sent by Caruana to Muscat.

Caruana says law enforcement officials are wrongly assuming that anyone caught cultivating more than one plant is doing so for trafficking purposes. The longtime cannabis activist drew attention to the fact that the United Kingdom’s cannabis rules are much more lenient than Malta’s, even though the U.K. is considered to be the ideal model for Malta’s regulatory framework pertaining to legal cannabis.

According to U.K. cannabis rules, in the event that an individual is accused of cultivating up to nine plants for personal consumption, that individual will be fined no more than 125 percent of his weekly wage. The individual will either be discharged from work or required to participate in community work.

“When you see this,” Caruana questioned Muscat in his email, “don’t you think it is still draconian, and even unjust, that the cultivation of two plants automatically results in a prison sentence?”

Email about Malta’s cannabis rule flaw doesn’t get response from Justice Minister

Caruana received a response from Muscat, who informed him that he would be forwarding the email to the person responsible for overseeing Malta’s cannabis decriminalization law – Justice Minister Owen Bonnici. Although Bonnici confirmed that he had received the email and had promised to respond upon reading it, Caruana is still waiting to hear from him.

Needless to say that the activist is disappointed with Malta’s cannabis rule flaw; especially so considering he brought it to the government’s attention all those years ago and still, nothing has been done to amend it.

“My message is that this fake-liberal government was fully aware of the situation but forged ahead even when experts strongly opposed this half-baked reform. Now we have magistrates telling us the exact same thing,” Caruana concluded.

In spite of the harsh cannabis rules in Malta, 3.5 percent of the population are estimated to use the plant on a regular basis; meaning that there are approximately 17,500 cannabis consumers in Malta. The Mediterranean island hosts numerous cannabis expos each year, including Medical Cannabis Conference Malta and Medcann World Forum 2019.