The Malta Independent 8 December 2022, Thursday
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Updated: Cannabis law comes into force after President's signature

Saturday, 18 December 2021, 13:38 Last update: about 13 months ago

President George Vella has signed the law making recreational use of cannabis legal, a day after saying he had his hands tied.

Vella’s signing was the last hurdle in a process that saw the government ploughing on to enact the law in spite of protests from nearly 60 NGOs and the Opposition.

The Legal Notice 478, published by the government on Saturday, noted that the Authority on the Responsible Use of Cannabis Act has now come into force and establishes Minister Owen Bonnici as responsible for it.

Malta becomes the first country in Europe to permit restricted use of cannabis for recreational use.

As of Saturday, cannabis users can carry up to 7g of the substance on them without fear of prosecution and grow four plants at home.

Users who in the past were found guilty of cannabis possession offences can apply to have their criminal records expunged.

On Friday, President Vella said he had no power to ignore a law that was democratically passed in Parliament, irrespective of his agreement or otherwise.

In a statement, the government said that Act LXVI of 2021 (Chapter 628 of the Laws of Malta), which establishes the Authority on the Responsible Use of Cannabis and amends various laws relating to certain cannabis activities, has entered into force today, thereby a strong and robust reform is being implemented in the way our society perceives and treats citizens who make responsible and genuine use of cannabis, while curbing illegal trafficking and creating a new regulatory framework to protect minors and society at large.

The government urges people to make the best choices for their wellness and therefore will keep investing in programs of prevention against all substance abuses. At the same time, the government believes that it should respond to the realities in society and terminate the constant and unjust hardship and humiliation which the criminalisation of adults who choose to make responsible use of cannabis brings about through their arrests and/or arraignments in front of tribunals or courts.

Most importantly, the new legislative framework will clearly and effectively attack illegal trafficking of cannabis, the black market, and crime associated with this activity.

The law, for this reason, will provide the possibility of cultivating up to a maximum of four plants in households for personal use and will provide for the possibility of creating a regularised and safe source from which a person can obtain cannabis and cannabis seeds in limited and controlled amounts, under strict conditions. The latter will happen through the introduction of strictly regulated outlets, operated by non-profit associations, and registered with the Authority on the Responsible Use of Cannabis. 

At the same time, the necessary precautions and legal safeguards will be undertaken with the imposition of new and substantial fines in order to protect minors and the general public. At the same time educational and preventive efforts in schools, communities and other places against drug use will continue with particular focus on young people.

The new law, which has as its basis the principle of harm reduction, also provides that persons who in the past have been convicted by a criminal court for a crime which now has been decriminalised, will now be able to expunge that judgment from their conduct certificate with a simple written request, without the need of filing fresh Court applications.

Minister for Equality, Research and Innovation Owen Bonnici recalled that the reform regarding the responsible use of cannabis follows an electoral pledge and a subsequent extensive consultation process culminating in the launch of a White Paper last March. The consultation process had attracted 350 submissions.  Meetings with various stakeholders were also held.

“The entry into force of this robust legislative framework underlines this government’s willingness to make bold decisions by implementing wise and unprecedented reforms in order to bring about change and social justice in the best interests of society as a whole”, said Minister Bonnici.


 

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