In 2007, Kevin Bellotti was sentenced to prison and fined thousands. Before he went to prison, he had spent years signing a bond book at a police station every day and living under a curfew at 10 p.m.
His crime? He grows four cannabis plants in his family home in Xgħajra.
“Before prison, I had a life, a family, a good job, and a roof over my head. Then I was labeled a criminal and my life changed dramatically. I was a victim of the system, ”said Bellotti Times of Malta.
Now he can delete the conviction from his criminal record.
“I’m glad no one else will ever have the trouble I made just because they decided to grow cannabis for their own use,” he said.
Bellotti started smoking cannabis at 17 to relieve his anxiety and insomnia.
In the late 1990s there was a shortage of cannabis and prices skyrocketed, he recalled. When he was 30, he decided to grow cannabis himself.
He was arrested five years later. He said he never sold cannabis but was reported to the police by his neighbors.
He had just bought an apartment with his then wife and four-year-old daughter. “The day the police ransacked our home was the same day I had just moved all of our furniture to our new home.
“It was supposed to be the first real night in my apartment, but my night ended in the police depot on a mattress that smelled of urine.”
“Nothing is worse than being locked up. I wasn’t a criminal. I was frustrated “
He was charged with growing cannabis for the purpose of trading, despite claiming he never made any profit from his crops.
“That was the law then. Even if you get caught with a small plant, you have been labeled a trafficker. It was a very unfair and disgusting law. “
Between 2003 and 2007, Bellotti had to comply with a daily curfew at 10 p.m. and enter himself into the police’s bail book every day. On May 25, 2007, he was sentenced to 10 months in prison and a fine of Lm 4,000 (EUR 9,000).
“I’ve lost all my freedom. I had to sell my apartment, missed family birthdays, weddings, and time with my daughter.
“Nothing is worse than being locked up. I wasn’t a criminal. I was frustrated. The prison had taken my freedom. “
When he was out he had to start all over again. When he returned to his 17-year-old job, he was demoted.
“When I asked why 17 years of my career got thrown in the bin, I was told, ‘Thank god you got thrown in the bin, not the bin’. Do you have any idea what that feels like? I was so demoralized.
“I have only appeared twice in court, once because of this conviction and once because of my separation,” he added.
He hopes the stigma of cannabis smokers will now be lifted.
“We have to normalize the fact that people who smoke are not criminals, but, like me, people with families and jobs.”
Will he grow his own crops again? The 50-year-old replied with a happy “yes”.
“I’m going to request that my criminal record be cleared and I’m excited about the new law, but what happened to me changed my life and I have a scar that will never heal.”
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