The principal pieces of legislation dealing with substance use in Malta are the Medical and Kindred Professions Ordinance (Cap. 31), which relates to psychotropic drugs, and the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance (Cap. 101), relating to narcotic drugs, combined with the new Drug Dependence (Treatment not Imprisonment) Act 2014.
The illegal use of psychotropic and narcotic drugs is not, per se, recognised in Maltese law, although the use of these substances, if proven in court, leads to a conviction for possession or trafficking. Maltese law recognises two kinds of possession: simple possession, or possession for personal use; and aggravated possession, or possession of drugs not for the offender’s exclusive use.
Under the Drug Dependence (Treatment not Imprisonment) Act 2014, a person found in possession of a small amount of drugs for personal use is tried in front of the Commissioner of Justice. If found guilty, a fine of EUR 50 to EUR 100 is imposed for possession of cannabis or of EUR 75 to EUR 125 for possession of other drugs. Any offender who commits a second offence within a period of two years is required to attend the Drug Offenders Rehabilitation Board, where he or she is assessed for drug dependence and any necessary order may be issued; failure to comply with an order may be punished by a fine or three months in prison. A person found in possession of one cannabis plant for personal use is not liable to a mandatory prison term. In the case of an offender who commits a limited number of offences as a result of drug dependence, the Court may assume the function of a Drug Court and refer the offender to the Drug Offenders Rehabilitation Board.
The range of punishment for supply offences that may be imposed by the lower courts is six months’ to 10 years’ imprisonment, whereas the superior courts may impose a maximum punishment of life imprisonment. When certain offences take place within 100 metres of the perimeter of a school, youth club or centre or other place where young people habitually meet, the normal punishment is increased because these circumstances are deemed to be an aggravation of the offence. However, an amendment to the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance in 2006 allowed the court not to apply the mandatory prison term of six months if the offender intended to consume the drug on the spot with others. In 2014, the laws were further amended to guide the choice of prosecution for trafficking in a lower or superior court, considering whether the offender was playing a leading role to a significant or lesser extent and defining quantity guidelines for MDMA/ecstasy, LSD, amphetamine and ketamine. Courts may also opt for the lower punishment range if the higher range is considered disproportionate.
New psychoactive substances are addressed through the existing legal framework by amending the lists of proscribed substances in the Medical and Kindred Professions Ordinance and the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance.
Drug law offence (DLO) data are the foundation for monitoring drug-related crime and are also a measure of law enforcement activity and drug market dynamics; they may be used to inform policies on the implementation of drug laws and to improve strategies.
The statistical data provided by the Malta Police Force indicate that most DLOs are related to possession. Most of the DLOs for possession are related to cannabis.