Leonid McKay, the government-appointed executive chairman of the Authority for the Responsible Use of Cannabis (ARUC), has not answered questions on a violation made by one of the first two cannabis associations to be licensed.
Under Malta’s cannabis laws, which entered into force in December 2021, ‘Cannabis Harm Reduction Associations’ are licensed and regulated entities that can grow and sell marijuana. The ARUC is responsible for licensing the associations, regulatory oversight, and providing education on various levels.
The government has insisted on a zero-tolerance policy regarding abuse of the new rules, but The Shift reported last week how one of the country’s first licensees broke the rules on advertising shortly after being granted a licence ‘in principle’.
On 6 October, Sprawt posted on Facebook to recruit members, promising a “weed-loving journey” with “sizzling events, blazing giveaways, and pot-tastic surprises”.
Asking new potential association members to join, Sprawt promised “to elevate cannabis experiences to new heights”.
“We’re not your average social club; we’re your ‘high society’ club, offering laughter, love and lots of tokes,” Sprawt wrote.
The post has since been deleted along with the entire Sprawt Facebook page.
The Shift emailed McKay to ask for comments on how this could happen, considering the Authority he heads had only two licensees to monitor. He did not reply.
A key official of Sprawt, Andrew Cassar Overend, who also works as head of investments and research at the National Development and Social Fund (NSDF) and previously worked in the economy ministry, said the illegal advert that appeared on social media was “a mistake by the management”.
“The post you refer to was unauthorised by the association’s management team, and an internal exercise is underway to prevent future repeats,” Cassar Overend told The Shift.
“Fortunately, at least before your reporting, it received minimal exposure before its removal,” he said, insisting that the page itself was not live yet as his association is still in the process of obtaining a full licence.
However, The Shift obtained the screenshot simply by visiting the page, which was online and easily accessible at the time.
Cassar Overend insisted that his cannabis club’s primary objective “is and will always be harm reduction”.
ARUC’s failure raises questions about what will happen when the Authority has several associations to monitor at once.
Its Head, Leonid McKay who did not reply to questions, used to run Caritas for years, fighting against the legalisation of drugs in Malta. He is now on a €90,000 government package.