Confusion over the legal status of cannabis has led to calls to amend a six-month-old law.
A petition to parliament urges lawmakers to amend Malta’s cannabis laws to explicitly protect cannabis forms that do not provide any “stop” from the threat of prosecution.
The petition was filed by the founder of the Releaf cannabis lobby, Andrew Bonello, and comes after police launched a high-profile cannabis-related drug trafficking case.
Pain Clinic doctor and founder Andrew Agius is accused of importing and trafficking the drug after police confiscated CBD cannabis flowers from his establishment last February.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is the second most common cannabis compound after THC. Although THC is what gives cannabis its psychoactive effect, CBD has no psychoactive properties.
The Agius case revolves around the interpretation of a definition included in a December 2021 reform that effectively legalized the restricted use of cannabis for personal use.
The revised law defines cannabis as the flowers, leaves, and resin of the cannabis plant and notes that CBD “products” that contain less than 0.2% THC are excluded from this definition.
But what constitutes a CBD “product”?
When Agius was indicted in court, prosecutors argued that since the CBD flower confiscated from him is part of the cannabis plant, it is a narcotic and is subject to confiscation and prosecution.
Agius’ lawyers, on the other hand, say that the flower in question contains less than 0.2% THC and is a “product” of CBD, such as CBD oil, shampoo or face cream. sell without restrictions.
The prosecutor in the case was not moved by this argument. Malta today reported, Inspector Marshal Mallia told the court that the law does not distinguish between cannabis flowers with high or low THC content.
The prosecution of Agius caught the Maltese cannabis smoker community by surprise and attracted the negative international press, as soon as it did after the passage of a law which government MPs presumed it was about ensuring that cannabis users were not criminalized.
According to Releaf, Agius is not the only person with CBD cannabis-related legal issues.
“Different people, from business people to private citizens, have encountered different problems at different levels,” Releaf said. Malta weatherdeclining specify more.
The petitioners led by Bonello de Releaf now want lawmakers to resolve this legislative anomaly by explicitly excluding all CBD products, including flowers, leaves and resin, from the scope of criminal prosecution.
His petition, which runs until mid-July, calls on parliamentarians to issue a legal notice “to clarify the legal status” of CBD products in all its forms and to launch a public discussion on trade and agricultural opportunities related to CBD and hemp products.
The petitioners also refer to classifying CBD as a “novel food”, which the European Commission is in the process of doing after Europe’s highest court, the EU Court of Justice, ruled in 2020 that CBD it should not be considered a narcotic.
The ECJ concluded that CBD “does not appear to have any psychotropic or harmful effects on human health.”
That historic ruling has already been cited in Spanish courts, in a case that bears many similarities to that of Agius. In July 2021, a Valencia court acquitted a store owner of drug-related charges after police arrested him for possession of CBD flowers and CBD resin.
The flowers and resin in question contained less than 0.3% THC, the upper limit allowed by EU law, and above the stricter threshold of 0.2% in Malta.
Police do not comment on ongoing cases and the Attorney General’s office does not explain its decisions, making it difficult to understand for sure why they are pushing for CBD flowers and resin to be classified as narcotics.
Part of the reason may be that there is no way to visually distinguish CBD cannabis from its THC (and narcotic) equivalent, which makes it much more difficult for police officers or customs officials to distinguish between the two.
This was the argument made by the French government when it tried to maintain the ban on the sale of flowers and CBD resin after the ECJ ruling. But in January this year, the country’s highest administrative court dismissed that reasoning and told the government to stop banning such products.
Prime Minister Robert Abela has said he wants the authorities “including the police” to “not only understand the law but also the spirit of the law”.
A spokeswoman for Junior Reform Minister Rebecca Buttigieg spoke along the same lines when asked about the new request for reform. Malta weather.
He said the government is working with the Cannabis Regulatory Authority to “ensure that the spirit of the law is met.”
“The historic amendments enacted in 2021 stipulate that CBD-containing products with THC levels not exceeding 0.2% are permitted by law. Therefore, the government together with the Cannabis Regulatory Authority are constantly working to to ensure that the spirit of the law is upheld, ”the spokesman said.
Meanwhile, local cannabis advocates say they have become nervous, confused and frightened by recent advances.
“The trauma of being arrested by the police, and in some cases having all personal belongings confiscated and finances frozen until further investigation is done, is a cruel and unsustainable way to address the welfare of society,” Bonello said. .
“It clearly reflects a disarticulated approach between what the law seeks to achieve and the realities on the ground.”
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