Pro-cannabis organisations are claiming that the politically appointed chair of the Authority for the Responsible Use of Cannabis (ARUP), Mariella Dimech, is just using the post for her own personal career promotion without achieving any results.
Labour promised the organisations they would be able to start using legal means to grow and smoke their own cannabis, but the groups are growing impatient with the way the government authority is being run.
Parliament approved the necessary legislation for the responsible use of Cannabis in 2021, but ARUP has not issued a single licence so far despite the €82,000 a year job handed to Dimech by Minister Owen Bonnici.
A pro-cannabis activist told The Shift that while Dimech has been promoting herself in all forms of media and “praising herself on how professional she is, she did not produce anything while raking in thousands of euro a month and splashing out another €46,000 a year to lease her new offices in Marsa”.
Dimech signed a contract with Bajada Investments Ltd for the five-year lease – through direct order – of an entire floor of a commercial building in Marsa on 17 January 2022. But her own €82,000 a year contract to head the authority was only signed on 20 January 2022.
The Onda Building in Marsa is owned by Mark Bajada, an entrepreneur in the solar energy business, who was named ‘entrepreneur of the year’ by the auditing firm EY in 2022. The building also hosts several entities connected to Byron Camilleri’s Home Affairs Ministry, including the passport office and Identity Malta.
Dimech began her career as an air hostess in Saudi Arabia. She joined Caritas as a facilitator after returning to Malta, and rose to overseeing rehabilitation programmes for drug users while lobbying publicly against legalisation for cannabis use.
At some point, she had a change of heart and started supporting Labour’s efforts to legalise cannabis use. She was then hand-picked to chair the regulatory authority.
Dimech also spent years presenting a state-sponsored discussion programme on PBS through her brother Saviour Balzan.