Drug use and possession

The use of illegal substances is not, per se, recognized, except for the use of prepared opium. However, the unauthorized use of controlled substances, if proved in court, will lead to a conviction for possession or trafficking.

There are two kinds of possession; the so called simple possession or possession for personal use, and the so called aggravated possession or possession under which circumstances it appears that the possession was not for the offender's exclusive use.

Simple possession, if tried in the Court of Magistrates, may be liable to 3-12 months imprisonment and/or a fine of 200-1,000 liri (€470-2,350). If it is tried in the Criminal Court, the sentence range is 1-10 years in prison and a fine of 200 – 10,000 liri (€470-23,500).

Possession not for the offender`s exclusive use is punished in the same way as trafficking, and carries a punishment of discretionary life imprisonment if convicted in the Criminal Court. If the court considers, taking various factors into consideration, that life is inappropriate, or if the jury verdict was not unanimous, the sentence may be between 4-30 years in prison and a fine of 1,000-50,000 liri (€2,350-118,000). If the conviction is in the Court of Magistrates, the offence is liable to 6 months – 10 years in prison with a fine of 200-5,000 liri (€470-11,800).

When such an offence (possession not for exclusive use) takes place within 100 metres of the perimeter of a school, youth club or centre, or such other place where young people habitually meet, the normal punishment is increased in that these circumstances are deemed to be an aggravation of the offence.

Non-criminal sanctions are not contemplated by Maltese laws. However, as seen above, there are certain non-custodial sanctions in minor cases.

Trafficking and drug-related crime

In Malta's law “dealing” is defined to include cultivation, importation in such circumstances that the Court is satisfied that such importation was not for the exclusive use of the offender, manufacture, exportation, distribution, production, administration, supply, the offer to do any of these acts, and the giving of information intended to lead to the purchase of such a drug contrary to the provisions of the Ordinance.

For selling or dealing any substances in the First Schedule of the DDO (Dangerous Drugs Ordinance) or any substances in part A of the Third Schedule of the MKPO (Medical and Kindred Professions Ordinance), as well as cultivation of cannabis, opium or coca, or conspiring to sell or deal, a conviction in the Criminal Court will lead to a possible life imprisonment. Once again, if the court considers, taking various factors into consideration, that life is inappropriate, or if the jury verdict was not unanimous, the sentence may be between 4-30 years in prison and a fine of 1,000 - 50,000 liri (€2,350-118,000). If the conviction is in the Court of Magistrates, the offence is liable to 6 months – 10 years in prison with a fine of 200-5,000 liri (€470-11,800).

Any forms of trafficking of substances listed in part B of the Third Schedule of the MKPO, or equipment aimed to produce them, if it is tried in the Criminal Court, will be punished by 1-10 years in prison and a fine of 200 – 10,000 liri (€470-23,500). If tried in the Court of Magistrates, by 3 - 12 months imprisonment and/or a fine of 200-1,000 liri (€470-2,350).

User-dealers are not treated in the same way as dealers whose only scope is that of enrichment. However, they still face punishment. If it is proved that an accused person is not a drug abuser, the courts, as sentencing practice, deal with such situations as equivalent to aggravating circumstances.

The Maltese courts have not shown much leniency in relation to drug-related offences, such as theft from vehicles, invariably stating that if such leniency were shown, they would be condoning more than one crime.

Harm reduction

There are no specific laws on syringe exchange programmes. However, the police do not interfere in the syringe distribution programme which is available nationwide. Such programmes are not available in Maltese prisons.

Substances used for substitution treatment are methadone and buprenorphine, though no specific law on substitution treatment has been reported. Only designated practitioners (or dental surgeon) authorised to work in a designated clinic can issue prescription for methadone and only in mixture form or as linctus. Methadone substitution treatment is available in one Maltese prison.

Precursors

Precursor trafficking is dealt with in the same way as drug trafficking, i.e. life imprisonment unless the judge considers life inappropriate or the jury conviction was not unanimous. The Ministry of Health issues licences for trade in precursors and may investigate their diversion.

Tobacco

The legal smoking age is 16.

Alcohol

It is illegal to sale alcohol to people under 17. The Drink Driving Limit in Malta is 35 mg of alcohol in the blood. If you are caught over the limit the police have the power to take away your license on the spot.