Cannabis: police in the dark over CBD products

No political direction yet for police over CBD products as arrests continue

File Photo
File Photo

Police had expressed serious concerns as to how Malta’s relaxation of cannabis laws would regulate their sale.

A senior police officer told MaltaToday yesterday that attempts to address the sale of cannabis products that were purportedly legal CBD flowers, had remained unresolved at the political level despite the matter being flagged by experts to the home affairs ministry.

CBD flowers, a direct product coming from the cannabis plant, contains just 0.2% of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). But the flowers of cannabis plants can also contain higher, and therefore illegal, amounts of THC – the main psychoactive compound in cannabis that produces the high sensation when cannabis is consumed.

Police officers can only distinguish whether a CBD product has legal quantities of THC through laboratory testing. But with the availability of such CBD products over the counter and even provided through food-delivery services, the home affairs ministry was petitioned by the police as to whether these products are being regulated.

Earlier in May, the cannabis lobby group ReLeaf called for more clarity in the regulation of CBD products, calling out the “draconian approach” to arrest law-abiding citizens whose assets were being frozen while investigations are carried out. “Society is now witnessing a new weapon levied against people who consume CBD... the House of Representatives has an opportunity to rectify these human rights abuses and ensure better implementation of the core principles included in the law.”

The government on Friday sacked psychologist Mariella Dimech, the first chairperson of the Authority for the Responsible Use of Cannabis (ARUC), after only 10 months in the role. 

ReLeaf yesterday called the appointment of her replacement, the former director of Caritas Leonid McKay, a direct insult to the spirit of the law, and those that had worked hard to combat the stigma and discrimination against cannabis users.

ReLeaf said Caritas, a Catholic charity that assists problem drug users, was steadfastly against the ‘recreational’ use of cannabis. “It was one of the leading organisations raising a demonising crusade against any form of legislative changes empowering responsible cannabis use and shielding people from unnecessary criminal consequences.”

“It is very worrying that Caritas has been one of the most vociferous organisations advocating to halt the possibility to allow personal growing and the establishment of a communal safe space where to share and consume cannabis. It is therefore even more questionable how principles of social equity, social justice, and sustainable development will be adopted by the new leadership of the ARUC.”

ReLeaf said it was unclear how Mckay’s past work experience at the helm of Caritas, and his personal moral and ethical positions on the recreational use of drugs will impact the development of the ARUC and cannabis laws.

“Could this appointment be a subtle and diplomatic attempt to stifle local legislation advancing the rights of people who consume cannabis? And, moreover, who will be benefiting from all this?”

ReLeaf said it wanted a signed declaration by any ARUC chairpersons that would commit them to the principles of harm and risk reduction; clear and transparent information on the licensing process for non-profit cannabis ‘clubs’; and a realistic timeline of when the licensing process will be implemented.

What is CBD?

CBD (02.% of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is allowed within the EU, and has been identified in Maltese legislation as being separate from cannabis with a higher THC content of 0.2%. Nonetheless, various people are being arrested and accused of importing cannabis prohibited under the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance Law, even when THC contents are below 0.2%. The prosecutor is completely ignoring amendments enacted in 2021 whereby a definition of cannabis, as pertaining to a regulated substance, is based on the levels of THC (above 0.2% THC) and not on physical appearance or other interpretations.