Mariella Dimech, the executive chairperson of the cannabis authority was appointed at the start of the year in January 2022. The government claimed that Mariella would head the Authority on the Responsible Use of Cannabis and that her term will last three years. Malta became the first EU country to legalise the cultivation and possession of cannabis use at the end of 2021.
So, who is Mariella Dimech?
Dimech has worked for Caritas, a drug recovery organisation, for 21 years, the last ten of which she spent as the coordinator of all Tama Gdida radio programs and services, which aim to help drug victims and their families.
She was in charge of developing therapeutic plans for all of the organisation’s services as a coordinator.
She was also the director of the San Blas Therapeutic Community for six years. According to the administration, the notion of residential treatment for drug addicts was developed under her supervision.
Dimech has been running a private clinic for 12 years. She’s also done research on substance abuse and the problems that come with it.
The authority, with Mariella heading it, has numerous crucial responsibilities, including serving as a regulator for non-profit organisations whose operations include the cultivation and possession of marijuana for distribution among their adult members. It also has the responsibility to organise or support educational programs on the responsible use of cannabis founded on scientific facts and provide clear and impartial information on the hazards and other aspects of marijuana and its use, with age-appropriate content.
The emphasis on responsibility
Mariella insists that Malta will not become another Amsterdam in which marijuana is seen as being ‘free for all’. Malta will adopt a different strategy. The truth that many are not aware of is the fact that although cannabis in Amsterdam is openly consumed in coffee shops and people, it is technically illegal. The authorities simply turn a blind eye and pretend that it is not since it is widely tolerated and accepted by all. However, this means that the marijuana that is being sold there is from the black market resulting in people not knowing the cannabis that they are buying such as its THC levels, etc.
Mariella wants to avoid what is happening in the Netherlands, and other parts of Europe, at all costs. That is why Malta is the first country in the EU to fully legalise cannabis. Unlike the Netherlands, Malta is not turning a blind eye and pretending that it is legal. It really is! In due time, people can buy cannabis from legal organisations that are following procedures and laws, that their main role is to ‘cultivate, store, and dispense’, resulting in knowing full well what cannabis they are buying.
By setting responsible laws, Mariella’s main aim is to protect people from the danger of substance abuse and promote a ‘harm reduction’ approach. People will be given the opportunity to use cannabis in a regulated manner, diminishing risk and harm.
One of the authority’s main responsibilities is also to educate and recognise the risk factors while promoting the responsible use of cannabis. Mariella acknowledges that the law created certain anxiety which means that an educational campaign is necessary to ensure that society understands what cannabis is. The authority’s role is not to promote the use of cannabis but to regulate the social phenomenon which sees a lot of people make use of the substance.
At the end of the day, it’s all about striking the right balance. While Mariella insists that Malta will not become another Amsterdam, we look forward to the day when we can smoke freely and leisurely, but responsibly.
Do you agree with Mariella’s approach? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
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