Pubdate: Tue, 08 Jul 2014
Source: Independent (Malta)
Copyright: 2014, Standard Publications Ltd
Author: Kevin Schembri Orland
Page: 2A


Cultivation of Cannabis to Remain Illegal

White Paper on the decriminalisation of drugs suggests the
introduction of medical use of marijuana and new ways how to tackle
users who are caught with small amounts of the drug.

It would still be considered illegal, however, to grow the plant. In
order to take cannabis for medical use, persons must have a
recommendation from someone holding the rank of consultant. Medical
marijuana refers to sprays or other medical items which contain
marijuana, and not the kind smoked on the streets, Justice Minister
Owen Bonnici explained.

Addressing the media yesterday, Minister Bonnici said that people
caught with small amounts of drugs for the first time, if the White
Paper becomes law, would be sent before the Commissioner of Justice,
who would decide whether the person in question would be let free,
fined, or sent before a special board. Repeat offenders would
automatically be sent before the board who would handle the situation.

Persons caught with small amounts of cannabis will be treated
differently and always be sent to the commissioner, who can decide
whether to send the person in question in front of the board. If the
conditions set by the board are not respected, the case may be
referred to the Court of Magistrates.

The board would be comprised of ex-members of the judiciary,
psychologists and probation officers.

Any proceedings in front of the board cannot be used in court, the
minister added.

Persons caught with excessive amounts of drugs, or 'street
traffickers' will still be sent to court, however the White Paper
proposes remedies other than imprisonment, including community service
and the option of a suspended sentence, if the court deems that the
person in question was dealing in order to finance his habit.

"There should be the possibility that the court transforms itself into
a Drugs Court for genuine cases where the court is convinced that the
offender sold drugs to fund his own addiction. The court would be able
to deal with all the pending criminal cases which that person would
have and give a single judgement for all offences," the minister added.

In the case of drug traffickers who sell drugs for profit, the present
system is to remain unchanged.

The White Paper also proposes the creation of an executive bureau for
asset management, which would handle the repossession of items bought
with drug money belonging to drug barons.

Laws regulating drug use in prison and drug use in front of minors
remain unchanged.

Incentives for those who cooperate are also present. If two or more
persons are using drugs together and one of them suffers from an
overdose, the sentence given to the other should be decreased if help
is called for immediately. In addition, the penalty decreases by one
or two degrees if the user assists the police in apprehending the dealer.

Lastly, the White Paper proposed a mechanism that would be put in
place whereby the criminal conduct would be able to be cleared in a
shorter period after consultation with rehabilitation agencies, the
police and Probation Services.

With effect from 15 July to 15 September, 2014 the Ministry of
Justice, Culture and Local Government will be welcoming written
submissions by email at  or by post at 30, Old
Treasury Street, Valletta.
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