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The subject of cannabis legalization in Malta (population 516,000 as of 2021 census data) is a long-suffering subject much like in the rest of the world. The essence of the argument is simple. The criminalization of cannabis possession and usage is the proximate cause of criminal proliferation and distribution. Why? Simple; cannabis cultivation is trivial and hence intrinsically worthless. Make cannabis a crime however and the worthless weed is suddenly worth 13 billion euros a year. Who suffers the greatest burden of criminalization? Young users who are unlucky enough to find themselves on the wrong end of the law (not to mention the traumatic effect arresting teenagers has on members of law enforcement!).
What is the status of cannabis in Malta in 2022?
Well, then the solution is simple. Legalization. Not so fast though. Cannabis usage does have potentially significant acute and chronic long-term societal and medical health risks. The simple truth is that cannabis is a complex substance and medical data is far from complete. This obligates any society choosing to legalize cannabis for recreational usage to have in place, at a minimum, appropriate social and medical impact data gathering and response systems.
This brings us to Malta. On December 18, 2021, Malta President George Vella signed into law the Malta Cannabis Bill legalizing the production, possession, and usage of cannabis for recreational purposes.
What does this mean? A Maltese citizen may now cultivate up to 4 cannabis plants for personal use. A Maltese citizen 21 years of age or older may be in public possession of up to 7g of cannabis (about 21 joints) or up to 50g at home. Cannabis clubs and associations are now legal and may produce and sell cannabis to adult Maltese citizens within the quantity limits noted above.
Public consumption of cannabis remains illegal. Dispensary licenses for recreational cannabis sales have not been granted at this time. Provisions for medical production and distribution have not been impacted by the new law.
One vital element of the new Cannabis Act is the provision for appeals to expunge criminal records predating the Cannabis Act. This will play a vital role in healing residual criminal stigma and reversing harm done to persons related to the enforcement of outdated and overbearing cannabis possession laws.
How will cannabis impact Malta’s economy?
What impacts will the new Law have on the cannabis industry in Malta at this time? Hard to say. Certainly, the 12000 square meter facility recently brought online by Hemp Industries will provide a template for larger-scale Malta-based cannabis production. Will cannabis-minded Europeans be flocking to Malta to revitalize the lagging tourism sector? Not without a public dispensary distribution system, no. Will large-scale production facilities be converting all the abandoned rock quarries into environmentally-friendly vertical grow ops? Not without a public dispensary distribution system or for that matter much larger foreign export markets, no. Will Malta be experiencing a reduced criminal element and enhanced tax benefits related to the cannabis industry as a result of the new Law? No. Is Malta positioned to manage large-scale cannabis production green waste? Again, no.
Further reading: see upcoming exclusive interview with Hemp Industries, Malta-based cannabis producer (available in April 2022)
Malta has come a long way and is acting decisively and effectively to safely transition the tiny island nation into a future of legal cannabis production and distribution. Malta has a long way to go. Decisive government and medical leadership coupled with innovative engineering and energy sector investment will be vital for making the cannabis industry effective in Malta.