Neil Camilleri & Rebekah Cilia Monday, 18 November 2019, 09:37 Last update: about 41 minutes ago
The Justice Ministry is examining “with an objective mind” a recent judgment that saw a woman jailed for cultivating just 6.5 grams of cannabis plants, which she admitted was for personal use, with even the presiding magistrate noting that the current drug law is not serving its purpose.
The case dates back to July 2014, when police searched the Sliema home of Marieclaire Camilleri and found six small cannabis plants in one pot. The woman, now 39, was charged with cultivating cannabis.
Whilst Camilleri pleaded guilty to the charges, she noted that she smoked about six joints a day, to help her cope with her anxiety and that the plants were only cultivated for her personal use.
Magistrate Natasha Galea Sciberras, presiding over the case, noted in her judgment that, while the court was convinced that the plants were for Camilleri’s personal use, the “draconian” law left her no option but to jail the woman.
In the judgment, a copy of which was ordered to be sent to Justice Minister Owen Bonnici, the magistrate said that the 2014 Drug Dependence Act was intended to ensure that people found guilty of being in possession of a small amount of drugs were fined, not jailed.
The wording of the law, however, is failing to achieve this goal and forces the courts to jail anyone found in possession of more than one plant of cannabis, even if the overall quantity is deemed to be small. The magistrate said the courts are being forced to jail people even if they do not deserve imprisonment.
The courts have the discretion to decide what a small quantity is, within reason, but their hands are tied when it comes to the number of plants since regardless of the amount, cultivating of more than one plant will lead to an effective jail term.
This notion was introduced in the 2014 drug law reform, through Article 7 of the Drug Dependence Act (Treatment not Imprisonment).
Article 7 of the said Act reads: “A person found guilty of cultivating the plant cannabis in a small quantity not exceeding one plant, in circumstances where the Court is satisfied that such cultivation was for personal use, shall not be liable to a mandatory term of imprisonment or to the exclusion of the application of