The Prime Minister of Malta, Robert Abela, today announced that cannabis users may soon be able to grow their own plants and avoid police arrests for possession, as the government moves to legalise “responsible use” of the substance.
The proposals were outlined by the Prime Minister on Thursday morning while speaking to journalists at a business breakfast on employment.
“The reform proposes the elimination of police arrest on cannabis for personal use,” the Prime Minister’s office told Lovin Malta in a written statement.
“By pushing up the limits of possession to reasonable levels, users will avoid police interrogation and legal proceedings. Government is also considering allowing the cultivation of a small number of plants strictly for personal use.”
The island state of Malta has been the subject of intense debate around cannabis reform in recent days, after the arrest of a couple found with cannabis in a hotel room on Valentines Day. After the raid, photos in a Police press release showed a tool for breaking up the drug, a small bag of cannabis and a joint that was half smoked.
The arrests prompted widespread criticism, with many arguing that the police action was drastic. MEP Roberta Metsola wrote in a tweet: “Are we really still charging teenagers for smoking a joint? If only we went after the corrupt with the same fervour, our country might just move forward…”
The Malta Labour Party included a pledge to initiate a discussion on the legalisation of cannabis as part of its election manifesto, but the announcement from the Prime Minister is the first time that a government official has given a clear indication of the direction the promised reform will take.
Momentum for change has been gathering in the country, thanks to groups such as community-based nonprofit NGO ReLeaf Malta. Founded in 2017 by a group of Maltese citizens, ReLeaf has been calling on the Government to change the draconian laws criminalising people who use cannabis and push forward additional legislative changes to the initial changes enacted in 2015.
Speaking to leafie, President of ReLeaf Andrew Bonello welcomed the Prime Minister’s latest announcement: “ReLeaf Malta greatly welcomes the PM’s statement declaring that legal amendments will be introduced in the coming weeks to ensure the human rights and privacy of people who consume cannabis are respected.”
“It is important the Government moves towards a decriminalised, as opposed to a de-penalised system, and ensure that cannabis consumers are no longer harassed by local law enforcement agents or end up in prison for cultivating a few plants. ReLeaf Malta will continue to dialogue with key representatives from the Government and other key stakeholders to ensure the human rights of people who consume cannabis are respected and a regulatory system based on social equity and sustainability is put in place.”