The Republic of Malta, commonly known simply as Malta, is one of the smallest countries in Europe. Malta is known for its lovely beaches, warm weather and blooming tourism. What most people don’t know about Malta is that the country is currently pushing to become the capital of medical marijuana in Europe. In recent years, Malta passed laws and regulations that make it ideal for entrepreneurs who want to invest in cannabis in Europe.
But what about recreational cannabis? Can you smoke weed without getting in trouble with the police? Let’s take a look at the legal situation of cannabis in Malta.
Cannabis laws in Malta
Maltese law does not punish the illegal use of psychotropic or narcotic drugs. However, this doesn’t mean that people can use drugs without legal repercussions. If proven in court, drug use might lead to convictions of drug possession or drug trafficking.
According to Malta’s legal system, there are two kinds of possession — possession for personal use, also known as simple possession, and possession not intended for the offender’s exclusive use, also known as aggravated possession.
Maltese law treats cannabis differently than other drugs. The Drug Dependence Act of 2014 mentions that any person charged with simple possession should be tried in front of the Commissioner of Justice. Those who are caught with cannabis should be fined €50 to €100 if found guilty, whereas those who are caught with other drugs should be fined with €75 to €125.
The Act also mentions that repeat offenders are required to attend the Drug Offenders Rehabilitation Board, where they can be assessed for drug dependence. Failure to do so can result in a fine or three months of imprisonment.
Cannabis users caught in possession of one cannabis plant may not be sentenced to prison and may be referred to the Drug Offenders Rehabilitation Board. However, those who are charged with supply offences can be sentenced for up to ten years of imprisonment, while serious offenders can be sentenced to even longer sentences, including life imprisonment by a superior court.
Dealing drugs within 100 metres of schools, youth clubs or centres or any other place used as a gathering spot by young people is considered an aggravating offence and may lead to increased punishments.
Cannabis possession is partly decriminalised in Malta
Cannabis possession for personal use is still illegal, but individuals caught with 3.5 grams of cannabis flower or less are punished with an administrative fine of €50 to €100.
However, the fact that simply carrying cannabis in small amounts is no longer a felony shouldn’t encourage individuals to consume cannabis in public. Law enforcement officers can still arrest anyone they catch with cannabis for up to 48 hours and interrogate them to find out where they got the cannabis from.
And being caught with more than 3.5 grams of cannabis can lead to harsh criminal sentences and lengthy court procedures which can take up to several years to resolve.
Medical cannabis in Malta
Medical cannabis framework
In April 2018, Malta passed its Production of Cannabis for Medical and Research Purposes Act. The Act allows entities to produce cannabis for medical and research purposes.
Those who want to grow cannabis can apply to enter the Maltese cannabis program with the Medicines Authority. The applicants must fill all the necessary paperwork and pay an application fee. The fees are not refundable, and successful applicants will have to pay them every year. They will also have to renew their application and go through the entire process again every three years.
The Medicines Authority helps applicants with guidance and consultations, and it may also provide access to quality medicinal cannabis. The Authority is further responsible for reviewing the application process, the scientific and technical documentation, the security considerations and observing the applicants’ good practices.
Once an application is approved, the entity may produce, import and distribute cannabis and cannabinoid products licensed under the Maltese Medicines Act. The products have to respect the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) standards in the EU, and they have to be approved by the Superintendent of Public Health.
The Maltese Advanced Scientific Initiatives Directorate is open to collaborating with established organisations active in the cannabis field. It invites organisations that research cannabis cultivation, clinical trials, product formulations and analytical developments related to cannabis to reach out for collaboration proposals.
The Medicines Authority works with the University of Malta, Malta Enterprise and the Malta Laboratories Network to study cannabis and educate the general public about the benefits of medical cannabis.
Access to medical cannabis
Maltese patients have to request a Drug Control Card from Malta’s Superintendent of Public Health before being allowed to access cannabis treatments. And, after getting a card, they also have to get a cannabis prescription from a doctor.
Cannabis medication is closely monitored, much like other prescription narcotics. Doctors have to show that cannabis was not their first treatment option and that the previous treatments they tried were unsuccessful.
When a patient has a card and a valid prescription, they can purchase medical cannabis directly from a pharmacy. However, the only forms of cannabis treatment currently allowed in Malta are non-smokable.
Is CBD legal in Malta?
Malta’s legislation doesn’t make a distinction between hemp and marijuana, so all cannabis plants are treated in the same way, regardless of their tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content. But, even though entities have to register with the Maltese Medicines Authority to grow cannabis, cannabidiol (CBD) products with a THC concentration of up to 0.2 percent are left in a legal grey area.
CBD is not mentioned in any law; therefore it is not legal. But, in the same way, CBD is also not illegal, so most of the CBD sold in Malta is not licensed. However, since the law protects people who possess a small quantity of cannabis, it also protects those who possess CBD. But individuals shouldn’t consume CBD in public because they can be fined with up to €100 for simple possession.
The future of cannabis in Malta
Malta is home to cannabis-friendly regulation. However, the current legal framework doesn’t do anyone any good. Cannabis is almost decriminalised, so smokers can enjoy a spliff without fearing legal repercussions. But Malta could benefit a lot more from cannabis legalisation.
People would be able to consume cannabis freely, and, most importantly, the authorities could control the distribution and make a tidy profit from cannabis taxes.
And if the small country really wants to become Europe’s leading force in medical cannabis, it should make cannabis treatments more accessible for its own citizens. As things stand right now, cannabis treatments are difficult to come by.