Many may not realise but Malta will be the first country in Europe to regulate cannabis.
The Maltese government is also about to be the first in the world to license small, not-for-profit, cannabis ‘social clubs’.
I met with the minister responsible for the roll-out, Rebecca Buttigeig and also with Mariella Dimech, the ‘Cannabis Queen’ – better known as the Executive Chairperson of the Authority on the Responsible Use of Cannabis. The authority has been set the task of establishing a regime that ensures:
- • seed to sale oversight
- • collection of data
- • education of the industry and the public
- • the licensing of cannabis associations
You can find the full legislation here.
It is currently legal in Malta to grow a number of plants (four per household) and to legally carry up to 7g of cannabis on your person. By the end of the year, licenses will start being issued to not-for-profit organisations to cultivate, process and supply up to 500 members.
There are about 500,000 people in Malta and it has been hard to estimate how many people consume cannabis. What they do know is that there is broad support for the regulation. It is estimated in the first instance there will be about 20 cannabis associations (clubs) up and running next year. They will be growing, transporting and providing cannabis to their members.
There will be requirements for labelling, training, education and record keeping amongst many other things. The authority has already had meetings with the industry and from what I can see it is a very collaborative process.
As with any regulatory scheme the goal is to knock out the illegal market as much as possible. The authority is working with the industry to work out a price regime. The authority will undertake testing and there will be considerable oversight at all points in the process. Test for contaminants, potency etc will occur at different times. There will be a central system to collect de-identified information.
I met with Malta’s Cannabis users group Releaf who are campaigning to ensure that the regulations promotes social equity and environmentally sustainable practices. They are definitely being heard by the Maltese govt and recently had positive meetings with both Rebecca Butgrieg and Mariella Dimech.
There are still a few issues to work through. Migrants and temporary visa holders will not be able to join a social club. This is a relatively significant portion of the community so they are thinking about how they can manage this.
Malta is taking a very sensible step and many countries will learn a lot from the roll out.
I am very optimistic about this model and to be honest there is a sense of frustrating déjà vu about it back home. The first finding of the Victorian Use of Cannabis report is not dissimilar from Mariella’s objectives. The report’s finding stated:
- • Any model for a legalised and regulated market for the supply and sale of cannabis should consider the following elements:
- • an appropriate level of government regulation to ensure that cannabis supply and sale are subject to strict controls
- • establishing a regulatory body to oversee the industry
- • regulation on the potency of THC in legal cannabis products
- • market controls to avoid the creation of a ‘big cannabis’ industry
- • regulation of cannabis social clubs
- • restrictions on advertising, marketing and promotion of products
- • competitive pricing to undercut sales in the illicit market to ensure users access regulated products
- • careful consideration should be given before further legalisation of other cannabis products (such as edibles)
- • an appropriate tax framework should be put in place to help fund cannabis‑related programs.
I haven’t had a response from the government about this report and its findings but maybe now we can expect a more positive one.
As I’ve said before I am the eternal optimist!