Malta marijuana arrests are going through the roof, so now they have to change the rules
Malta still frowns when cannabis is used for any reason. It is not uncommon for a police officer to accuse citizens of having possession of cannabis, regardless of the amount found or whether the suspect intends to use it or not.
In fact, the Malta Justice Ministry reports that in the old country someone is charged with cannabis possession every day.
About 90% of the arrested suspects are first-time offenders. These people are being prosecuted by law enforcement agencies for simply having weeds on them.
A total of 1,897 people have been charged since the drug court was set up in September 2015 to December 2020.
Of these 1897, about 90% had no previous convictions.
897 citizens were brought in for simple possession of cocaine.
136 Maltese were accused of simple possession of ecstasy drugs.
184 people were brought in for simple possession of heroin.
Cannabis possession accounts for two out of three drug court sessions.
About 60% of legal prosecutions are due to possession of very small amounts of drugs.
The drug court was seen as a critical part of the legal reform for drug use in Malta. The trivial arrests have undermined the true purpose of the tribunal. Sometimes the public screamed after a couple were arrested at a hotel this year on charges of simple marijuana possession.
In response, police released pictures showing a weed grinder, a small packet of weeds that looked half-smoked, and the leftover cannabis in a bag. Police did not issue a statement to explain how much cannabis was obtained from the scene. They remained silent. People concluded that it was a small amount from the narrative silence.
Because of the outrage, ways have been suggested to combat simple possession of hemp and cannabis.
The public believes that the drug should not be classified with other drugs such as cocaine and heroin.
Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela addressed the Maltese citizens. He assured that something would be done about the arrests. He also confirmed that a new policy would be put in place to regulate these arrests as soon as possible. He said the law would end the era of police officers making arrests for simply possessing small amounts of cannabis for personal use.
Currently, the current constitution only allows a citizen to own only 3.5 grams of marijuana plants. The plans in motion would increase the amount of cannabis a citizen is allowed to hold. Possession of cannabis over 3.5g would be decriminalized.
A new limit will soon be announced by the government.
The Prime Minister also stated that the new law would allow small numbers of cannabis plants to be grown in private households for personal use. The number will also be announced soon.
However, doubts have been expressed. Organizations like Caritas and Sedqa have warned that the government may not be able to curb abuse of marijuana plants if it legalizes adult use. They also noted that legalizing marijuana products will increase consumption and lower prices. Strains with higher concentrations of THC and CBD are also being developed.
The Drug Tribunal was established under the Drug Dependence Act in the Constitution of Malta.
The previous law does not provide for the imposition of fines on first-time offenders. The police were allowed to arrest anyone immediately, regardless of the amount of cannabis found on them. Once arrested, suspects are given appointments to attend their session in the drug court. All the guilty offenders were sentenced to prison terms.
From September 2015 to December 2020, 1,277 people were charged with possession of cannabis or part of it. While the remaining 620 were charged with possession of cannabis resin.
The proposed law will ensure that indiscriminate arrests are not made. Only suspects found with very high levels of cannabis (depending on the numbers to be released) will be arrested. Those found guilty of simply possessing small amounts of the marijuana plant or resin can leave once the fine is paid.
The law allows the suspect to remain in detention for up to 48 hours regardless of the quantity in his possession. This is to enable the police to conduct an investigation into drug trafficking in the country. Once the person is determined to be free of any drug trafficking affiliation, they can pay the fine and leave.
In the United States, arrests related to cannabis outnumbered arrests related to violent crime combined. Yes that’s true. It was that bad. It got so bad that the FBI found there were at least three cannabis arrests every five minutes.
As in Malta, most of these arrests were not for the sale or cultivation of marijuana crops, but rather for simple possession.
Those arrests have now decreased with the legalization of medical and adult use of cannabis drugs in most states.
Arrests are now made when unlicensed cannabis growing areas are discovered in these states.
In the US, a cannabis arrest leaves a lasting criminal history that can lead to loss of housing, employment, and financial aid. In extreme cases, the perpetrators have lost custody of their children.
The sooner clearer rules are put in place by the Maltese government, the sooner these unjustified arrests can be contained.
If arrests for simply possessing cannabis are reduced, the Drugs Court can bring speed to justice in important cases.
Unverified sources claim the prime minister will be making this much-needed announcement in a few weeks’ time.
Until the new laws are in place, it is recommended that every Maltese citizen not hold cannabis or grow the plant for personal use.
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