The Government has announced the appointment of Mariella Dimech as the first Executive Chairperson of the Authority on the Responsible Use of Cannabis – the body set up to regulate cannabis under Malta’s new laws on the substance.

This appointment, which was issued by Minister for Equality, Research and Innovation Owen Bonnici, is for a period of three years.

The first Board of the Authority has also been appointed for a period of three years and, apart from Ms Dimech, will also be made up of Janice Formosa Pace (Deputy Chairperson) and Nadine Brincat, Sina Bugeja, Marius Caruana, Charles Cassar, Gabriel Farrugia, Paul Micallef and Charles Scerri (members).

The new Executive Chairperson is a psychotherapist by profession. She worked with Caritas for 21 years, 10 years of which she was the coordinator of all “Tama Ġdida” programs and services, to provide support to drug victims and their families.

As coordinator, she was responsible, among other things, for the creation of clinical programs for all services.

For six years, she ran the San Blas Therapeutic Community. Under her leadership, the concept of residential treatment for drug victims was introduced and was an “integral” part of the work that led to the creation of structures, working systems, policies and clinical groups of all of San Blas and the “Tama Ġdida” programs and services.

Ms Dimech has been running her private clinic for the past twelve years. She has also conducted studies on ‘Substance Misuse’ and the challenges surrounding this area.

Throughout her career, Ms Dimech has had experiences in broadcasting and in the administration of “Kenn għal Saħħtek”, the Malta Community Chest Fund and sports organisations.

For several years, she has also provided training for various companies on organisational challenges on the workplace.

The Authority for the Responsible Use of Cannabis has several important functions, including the duty to act as regulator for non-profit associations whose activities involve the cultivation and possession of cannabis for distribution among its members, who have to be adults. It also has the duty to organise or promote educational campaigns on the responsible use of cannabis based on scientific facts, whilst providing clear and impartial information on the risks and other elements of cannabis and its use, with reference to age and with appropriate content.

With immediate effect, Ms Dimech will be overseeing the creation of all the necessary structures, including those related to operational systems and regulation, so that the authority will be in a position to receive the first applications for registration of associations without undue delay.

The Deputy Chairperson, Dr Formosa Pace is a lecturer within the Department of Youth and Community Studies at the University of Malta. She graduated with a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Malta, M.Sc. in Forensic and Legal Psychology from the University of Leicester and a Ph.D. in Criminology from the University of Huddersfield.

Throughout her career, she also worked as a probation officer and as an educator in church and Government schools.

Nadine Brincat

Ms Brincat is a psychotherapist. For a number of years, she worked with Caritas as a psychotherapist for individuals or groups in the field of addictions. She also has experience in the field of marketing.

She graduated with a Bachelor in Communications from the University of Malta, a post-graduate diploma in Marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing in the UK, an MBA from the University of Leicester and a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy from the Gestalt Psychotherapy Training Institute of Malta.

She is also a certified Addictions Informed Mental Health Professional (CAIMHP) accredited by the Institute of Certified Addictions-Informed Professionals (ICAIP).

Sina Bugeja

Ms Bugeja has served as Chief Executive Officer – Special Projects within the Ministry for Health, Chief Executive of the Foundation for Social Welfare Services, Executive Director of the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality and Chief Executive of Sedqa.

She holds a diploma in General Nursing and Applied Social Study from the University of Malta and a Masters of Science with distinction in Health Promotion and Health Education from the University of Wales.

Since 1997, she has been teaching as a Senior Lecturer in Health Promotion and Health Education in various courses within a number of faculties, including the Faculty of Health Science and the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery at the University of Malta.

She is a member, inter alia, of the Malta Institute of Management the Royal Society for Public Health (fellow), the Today Public Policy Institute, the Council of the University of Malta, the Board of Trustees of the Richmond Foundation and the Board of Administrators of Fondazzjoni Sebħ.

Marius Caruana

Dr Caruana is a medical doctor, with a specialisation in family medicine.

He graduated from the University of Malta. He has worked for a number of years in the Health Division and in the field of Palliative Medicine with the Malta Hospice Movement.

Dr Caruana is also the lead doctor within the Ħal Far Immigration Reception Centre and the Migrant Health Services. He is a member on the Committee for the Prevention of Torture or Punishment within the Council of Europe.

He has participated in various health-related studies, also including those relating to medical cannabis. He has also contributed to various medical publications.

Charles Cassar

Dr Cassar is a psychotherapist.

He is the Chairperson of the Board of the Psychotherapy Professions Board Malta, President of the Malta Association of Psychotherapy (MAP) and Vice-President of the European Association for Psychotherapy, among other positions.

He holds a Bachelor with Honours and a Ph.D. in Labour Studies, an M.A. in Gestalt Psychotherapy and various diplomas in the field of psychotherapy.

Throughout his career he was head of care of Santa Maria (Drug Rehab.) and also director of YMCA. He is a visiting lecturer both in Malta and in foreign universities.

Gabriel Farrugia

Dr Farrugia is a lawyer whose main areas of current practice are civil, public procurement and commercial law. In past years, he has worked on the drafting of a number of laws.

He holds a Bachelor of Laws and a Doctor of Laws.

Paul Micallef

Dr Micallef is a clinical psychologist with a specialisation in addictions.

He is also an Executive Coach and Mentor (UK Institute of Leadership and Management), an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, a Chartered Psychologist (UK) and a Member of the Addictions Advisory Board (Malta).

He holds a B.A. in Liberal Arts from the University of Iowa (USA) and a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of Birmingham with a specialisation on addictions.

He worked in various countries, both in Europe and outside of Europe, and actively collaborated with the European NGO HOPE, Caritas and the Hospice Movement. Throughout his career, he re-engineered various specialised services for people who suffer from problems related to addiction and other factors. He participated in various EU-funded projects promoting leadership and coaching at work.

Charles Scerri

Mr Scerri is the current Director at Sedqa within the Foundation for Social Welfare Services. He graduated with a B.A. in Social Work and has been working for the past 16 years as a social worker, particularly in the fields of vulnerable children and, later on, addictions.

He subsequently received training in the fields of criminology and child development and participated in the various European Social Network Conferences and in international conferences relating to drugs and addictions.

Dr Reno Vella, a lawyer, will be serving as Board Secretary.

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