Leonid McKay to head cannabis authority

Former Caritas director and current Housing Authority chair will be heading the cannabis authority tasked with drawing up the rules for the creation of cannabis associations

Leonid McKay will be heading the new cannabis authority
Leonid McKay will be heading the new cannabis authority

Leonid McKay has been appointed executive chair of the cannabis authority instead of Mariella Dimech whose job was terminated yesterday evening.

The new appointment was announced by the Home Affairs Ministry on Friday morning, shortly after the outgoing chair communicated her own dismissal.

The Authority for the Responsible Use of Cannabis was set up late last year as part of the drug reform that partially legalised the recreational use of cannabis.

The authority was tasked to regulate the sector and create the policy framework for non-profit cannabis growing associations.

Dimech was appointed in January as its first executive chair but there has been little tangible progress since then with no licences having been issued yet for cannabis associations.

In a statement on Friday, Dimech said that over the last 10 months, she had worked without any functional office, “no staff, no budget and a political strategy and decision strategy I disagreed with.”

The ministry made no reference to Dimech’s departure or her comments when announcing the new appointment. In a dry sentence, the statement said that “the minister and the parliamentary secretary thank Mariella Dimech for her work over the past months.”

McKay, like Dimech, has a past association with Caritas, a church organisation, that also operates drug rehabilitation centres.

A sociology and social policy graduate, McKay was appointed Caritas director in 2014 and occupied the role until 2018 when he was appointed executive head of the Housing Authority. McKay is expected to relinquish his post at the Housing Authority to take up the new job.

ReLeaf does not approve of McKay appointment

In a statement, pro-cannabis legislation NGO ReLeaf said it does not agree with Leonid McKay’s appointment as head of the authority.

“Releaf Malta does not approve of the newly appointed Chairperson Leonid Mckay due to his previous prohibitionist stances against people who use cannabis and the years spent in Caritas dehumanising the voice of people who use cannabis and labelling us as sick patients in need of rehabilitation,” it said.