Malta still frowns upon the use of cannabis for any reason whatsoever. It is not unusual for a police officer to charge citizens with cannabis possession regardless of the quantity found or, whether or not the suspect has an intent to use.
In fact, the Justice ministry of Malta reports that every day in the ancient country, someone gets charged for cannabis possession.
About 90% of the arrested suspects are first-time offenders. These people get prosecuted by the law enforcement agencies for simply having weed on them.
Since the drugs tribunal was first set up in September 2015 up till December 2020, a total of 1897 people have been charged.
Out of this 1897, about 90%, had no prior criminal record.
897 citizens were brought in for simple possession of cocaine.
136 Maltese were charged with simple possession of ecstasy drugs.
184 people were brought in for simple possession of heroin.
Cannabis possession accounts for two in every three drug tribunal sessions.
About 60% of the held tribunal prosecutions can be attributed to possession of very small quantities of drugs.
The drug tribunal was put up to be a critical part of legal reform for drug use in Malta. The trivial arrests have undermined the true purpose of the tribunal. Sometimes this year, the general public gave an outcry after a couple was arrested in a hotel and charged with simple possession of marijuana.
In response, the police force released pictures that showed a weed grinder, a little wrap of weed that looked half-smoked, and the leftover cannabis kept in a bag. The police did not issue any statement to explain just how much cannabis was obtained from the scene. They kept mute. People deduced it was a small amount from the telling silence.
Due to the outrage, there have been proposed ways of tackling the simple possession of hemp and cannabis.
The public believes that the drug shouldn’t be classified with other drugs like cocaine and heroin.
The Prime Minister of Malta, Robert Abela addressed the citizens of Malta. He assured that something was going to be done about the arrests. He further confirmed that a new policy would be introduced as soon as possible to regulate these arrests. He said the law would end the era of policemen making arrests for simple possession of little amounts of cannabis for personal use.
Currently, the constitution in place only allows a citizen to possess only 3.5g of marijuana plants. The plans in motion would increase the amount of cannabis a citizen is allowed to hold. Possession of cannabis beyond 3.5g would be decriminalized.
A new limit would be announced by the government soon.
The Prime Minister also stated that the new law would authorize the cultivation of a small number of cannabis plants in homes for personal use. The number would also be announced soon.
However, doubts have been cast. Organizations like Caritas and Sedqa have warned that the government might be unable to curb the abuse of marijuana plants if it legalizes adult use. They also noted that the legalization of marijuana products will increase its consumption and cause the prices to fall. Varieties with higher concentrations of THC and CBD content will also be developed.
The Drug Tribunal was set up under the Drug Dependence Act in the Constitution of Malta.
The previous law does not give room for fines to be issued to first-time offenders. The police were allowed to arrest anyone immediately irrespective of the amount of cannabis found with them. After arrests have been made, the suspects are issued dates to attend their drug tribunal session. All guilty offenders were given jail sentences.
From September 2015 to December 2020, 1277 people were charged based on having cannabis or a part of cannabis in possession. While the remaining 620 were charged for possessing cannabis resin.
The proposed law will ensure no indiscriminate arrests are made. Only suspects found with very high amounts, (depending on the figures to be announced), of cannabis, will be arrested. Those found guilty of simple possession of little amounts of the marijuana plant or resin will be free to go as soon as the fine is paid.
The law permits the suspect to be detained for up to 48 hours regardless of the quantity seen in their possession. This is to allow the police force to make investigations related to drug trafficking in the country. As soon as the person is found to be free of any affiliations with drug traffickers, they are allowed to pay the fine and leave.
In the U.S, cannabis-related arrests used to outpace violent crimes related arrests combined. Yes, that’s true. It was that bad. It was so bad that the FBI deduced there were at least three cannabis arrests every 5 minutes.
Like Malta, most of these arrests were not for selling or growing marijuana plants, rather they were for simple possession.
These arrests have reduced now with the legalization of medical and adult-use of cannabis drugs in the majority of the states.
Nowadays, arrests are carried out when unlicensed cannabis cultivation sites are discovered in these states.
In the US, a cannabis arrest will leave a permanent criminal history that could result in the loss of housing, employment, and financial assistance. In extreme cases, offenders have lost custody of their children.
The faster clearer rules are laid down by the government of Malta, the earlier these unwarranted arrests can be curbed.
More so, when arrests due to simple possession of cannabis are reduced, the drug tribunal would be free to carry out quick trials on important cases.
Unverified sources claim the Prime Minister would make that much-needed announcement in a few weeks.
Till the new laws are laid down, it is advised that every citizen of Malta stay away from holding cannabis or cultivating the plant for personal use.