The executive chairman of the national cannabis regulator, Leonid McKay, refused to give any concrete indication of action taken against one of the country’s first cannabis associations to hold an in-principle licence, which infringed regulations in October.
Sprawt Cannabis Harm Reduction Association (CHRA), one of the first non-profit cannabis distributors to obtain an ‘in-principle’ licence from the Authority, marketed its products on social media despite clear regulations prohibiting such advertising.
The Shift contacted McKay, executive chairman of the Authority for the Responsible Use of Cannabis (ARUC), who explained that the licensing process “is still ongoing, but [full] licensing will not be granted until associations are fully compliant.”
However, he refused to answer whether the Authority would take any disciplinary measures, instead stating, “Investigations are ongoing”.
McKay was asked about the Authority’s policy and penalties for infringing the rules, whether Sprawt’s preliminary licence would be revoked, or whether they would be prohibited from obtaining full licensing.
After initially denying that any regulations were broken, McKay said that if a full licensee broke any regulations, he “would be the first to report it to the police and the commissioner for justice.”
However, he said, “Sprawt did not yet have its licence.”
He said the Authority is “against any form of commercialisation in the sector since it goes against harm reduction principles” but refused to mention any concrete action being taken, instead stating, “There are internal procedures being undertaken.”
Based in Żebbuġ, Sprawt CHRA lists Andrew Cassar Overend as its key officer and treasurer, who currently works at the National Development and Social Fund and was previously an economics officer in the Ministry of Finance and Employment.
The Shift contacted Overend to ask if his post and the page violated rules on association advertising and why he subsequently took its Facebook page down. While he did not immediately respond, in a later comment, he said the advertisement was a mistake.
“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”.
Despite Sprawt and another association, KDD Society, being the Authority’s first ‘in principle’ licensees, Sprawt was conspicuously absent from ARUC’s announcement of the first fully licensed associations.
KDD Society and Ta’ Zelli were granted full licensing last week.
The non-profit associations are expected to provide a safer alternative to the current black market for cannabis. Their licensing comes almost two years after Malta legalised recreational cannabis use in December 2021 without providing a legal and regulated source for its purchase.