On Tuesday 14th December 2021 the Maltese Parliament approved the Cannabis bill. Following the President’s sign off on such bill, on the 18th of December 2021, ACT No. LXVI of 2021 established Chapter 628 of the Laws of Malta (Authority on the Responsible Use of Cannabis Act) and amended various laws relating to certain cannabis activities.
Essentially, users will now be entitled to carry, buy and grow certain amounts of cannabis. It has not been fully legalised however this new law further decriminalises the substance. The depenalisation process of this substance started a few years back, in 2015. Here the Maltese Government had removed penalties for its use as long as it was in small amounts.
Legal notice 478 noted that the Minister for Equality, Research and Innovation is the Minister responsible in this respect.
ACT No. LXVI of 2021 – Salient features
Establishment of the Authority on the Responsible Use of Cannabis
A new regulatory authority shall be established to oversee the cannabis sector. Essentially, this new authoritative body shall regulate the use of cannabis for purposes other than medical or scientific, amongst other duties and functions.
The Authority shall consist of a Board and a Directorate. The Board shall consist of a Chairperson and four to eight other members appointed by the Minister. Such members must have experience and knowledge in the field.
The Board will essentially be responsible to establish the policy to be adopted by the Authority.
The Directorate, on the other hand, shall consist of the Chief Executive Officer, who shall be the director of the Authority, a Deputy Director and such officers/employees of the Authority as may be engaged from time to time. The Chief Executive Officer will generally be responsible for the overall management and executive action of the Authority and shall keep the Board informed on the general running of the Authority.
Amendments to the Conduct Certificates Ordinance
A new article under 8A has been added to the Ordinance which reads that where a person has been convicted of an offence (in relation to cannabis) which has been subsequently decriminalised or depenalised, that person may send a written request to the Government Department or Entity responsible for the issue of conduct certificates, to de-register the said conviction from his conduct certificate.
In a nutshell, such amendments to the Ordinance allows anyone with a criminal record for cannabis possession to apply for such record to be removed from their records.
Amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance
A new definition has been added to this Ordinance.
In terms of this Ordinance, Cannabis shall be defined as the inflorescence and leaves of any plant of the genus Cannabis and includes any resin obtained from the said plant and any preparations derived from the said plant, but does not include its seeds, or cannabinoid products containing not more than zero-point two (0.2) percent of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Moreover, any reference to the words ‘Indian hemp’ in this Ordinance shall be substituted by the word ‘cannabis’.
Amendments to the Commissioners for Justice Act
The amendments here refer to the amount of cannabis that an individual is allowed to carry in terms of the law. The original amount permitted was 3 grams – this has now been increased to 7 grams. Smoking cannabis in public remains prohibited.
Amendments to the Drug Dependence Act
Several new rules have been added by virtue of such amendments, a few of which include the following:
Now, the possession by a person over the age of 18 of cannabis in an amount which does not exceed 7 grams, in circumstances where it is deemed that such possession is for personal use, shall not constitute as a crime;
A person who consumes cannabis (other than for medical reasons) in a public place shall be liable to a penalty of EUR 235;
A person who consumes cannabis in the presence of a minor (provided they are aware that such person is a minor) shall be liable to a penalty not less than EUR 300 and not more than EUR 500;
The cultivation of up to 4 plants of cannabis and the possession of not more than 50 grams of dried cannabis, for personal use, by a person over the age of 18, within his/her residential address, shall not constitute an offence. This is subject to further rules such as that the cultivation shall not occur in a space which is visible to the public; and
It shall be permissible to establish an organisation – the membership of which shall consist only of individuals in their personal capacity and acting only in their own name, the only purpose of which being the cultivation of cannabis exclusively for its members in a collective manner to distribute it only to those members. An organisation shall comply with the relevant rules applicable to it. For one, such organisation shall operate on a non-profit basis in accordance with the Voluntary Organisations Act.