Converting cocaine into crack cocaine is not trafficking, rules court

Court disagrees with the assertion that converting cocaine into crack cocaine constituted trafficking: the law does not define 'manufacturing' or 'production'

A man has been cleared of drug trafficking charges after a court ruled that converting cocaine into crack cocaine does not constitute that particular offence.

Denis Cremona, 36, from Floriana, had been charged with trafficking cocaine and relapsing after officers from the drugs squad had raided Cremona’s residence in May 2012, finding the accused and a certain Jason Bugeja, who had been holding a sachet of white powder.

Magistrate Natasha Galea Sciberras was told how the officers had also recovered drug paraphernalia from the house, including a set of electronic scales, bicarbonate of soda, a pipe, plastic bags, a penknife, a teaspoon, a box of razors and two knives, one of which was burnt.

Although no illegal substances were detected on the knives, the penknife and the teaspoon, a court-appointed expert found traces of cocaine on the pipes and the scales.

Cremona, who had declined legal assistance during his interrogation, had told the police that he used the glass pipes to burn “rubbish” (imbarazz), and would use the scales and bags for things he bought.

The accused, who explained that he had been a cocaine and heroin addict for ten years, alleged that Bugeja had gone to his house to smoke crack with him, but denied selling the drugs.

Cremona also denied converting the cocaine into crack cocaine, saying that Bugeja had provided the ready-cooked drug, which the pair had smoked together.

Bugeja, however, had told police that he had gone to visit the accused because he did not know how to “cook” cocaine. He had admitted that the drugs were his.

Prosecuting police inspector Nikolai Sant had argued that cooking crack cocaine was effectively the manufacture of the drug and therefore, constituted the offence of trafficking.

The court however noted that only bicarbonate of soda had been exhibited in court as evidence and the white substance that had been found Bugeja's possession was never exhibited, making it impossible for the court to establish whether it was cocaine or crack cocaine.

The court held that while there was little doubt that Bugeja had procured the drug, the paraphernalia found in his apartment was not enough to prove that Cremona had trafficked it. It disagreed with the prosecution's arguing that converting cocaine into crack cocaine constituted trafficking. Whilst the offence of trafficking drugs included the manufacture and production of drugs, the law defined neither “manufacturing” nor “production.”

The court observed that the Oxford English Dictionary defined manufacturing as “the activity of making things by industrial processes” and production as “the action of manufacturing, growing, extracting things, especially in large quantities.”

The conversion of cocaine into crack cocaine did not constitute manufacture or production, but only a change in form in order to allow a different method of consumption, because the active ingredient remained the same, the court ruled .

Furthermore, as Bugeja had never alleged that the accused had procured the drugs for him and no drugs had been found in Cremona's possession, the charge of trafficking could not subsist, the court said, acquitting Cremona of all charges.