[WATCH] Opening new cannabis authority ‘no easy job’, minister admits after sacking head

Home Affairs Minister says Leonid McKay is worthy successor for cannabis authority top job despite past stand against recreational use of cannabis: 'He would not have accepted had he not believed in the cause'

Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri
Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri

Setting up an authority to regulate cannabis use “is no easy job”, the Home Affairs Minister has admitted following the sacking of Mariella Dimech.

Byron Camilleri said Malta’s law that allows the use of cannabis for recreational purposes was among the first in Europe, implying there was no blueprint to follow.

“The authority has reached a number of its aims, and is working to reach others. Mariella Dimech wanted to build a new authority from scratch, and we know it’s not an easy job to do so,” he said.

Malta’s first chair of the newly-created Authority for the Responsible Use of Cannabis announced on Friday morning that her services had been terminated by the ministry, 10 months after her appointment.

Dimech, a psychologist, was appointed as the executive chair of ARUC with a bid to create the policy framework for non-profit cannabis growing associations.

Former Caritas director and current Housing Authority chair Leonid McKay will instead be heading the cannabis authority.

Camilleri said McKay would continue building on the work carried out by Dimech during her tenure. "He won't be starting from scratch." 

But the minister skirted the question when asked about claims made in Dimech’s resignation statement that the authority lacked important resources to carry out its work.

Camilleri insisted the government wants to ensure the authority is given all the resources it needs to fulfil its functions.

He also defended the choice of McKay when asked whether he was the right person for the job given past statements against the recreational use of cannabis as a Caritas director.

The minister said McKay is a worthy successor for the role, given his past experience with cannabis users at Caritas's drug rehab centre. 

“It puts him in a position to move the agency forward. Had he not believed in the cause, he would not have accepted the role,” the minister said.

Associations will be non-profit

The minister refused to say whether a consortium was eyeing the cannabis association market when asked by reporters about the matter. 

He instead said that government is determined to ensure cannabis associations will not be for profit. 

“We are determined to see the law being enacted as it was approved in parliament,” he said.

The law states that cannabis associations will be non-profit and will be able to supply cannabis to registered members only.