Malta has issued the first two licenses to non-profit associations or “cannabis clubs,” making it a pioneer in the EU. The licenses are issued under legislation that also allows possession of up to seven grams of cannabis and the cultivation of up to 4 plants for personal use. Cannabis clubs, with a maximum membership of 500, can distribute limited quantities of cannabis and seeds to members.
Malta has become the first country in the European Union to formally end the prohibition of cannabis in 2021. Recently, according to the chairman of ARUC (Agency for Responsible Cannabis Use), the first two licenses have been issued to non-profit associations for the legal cultivation and distribution of cannabis.
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Malta Introduces Legal Cannabis Distribution
Cannabis clubs in Malta plan to begin legal distribution in February, as reported by the “Transform” Drug Policy Foundation, which participated in the formation of the national policy as an advisor. Leonid McKay, the executive chairman of ARUC, mentioned in a press conference that the prices are intended to be competitive compared to the illicit market, although the government will not directly influence price formation.
Next Steps in Licensing
An additional four associations have received preliminary licenses and are likely to obtain full operational licenses, as reported by Malta Today.
Maltese law allows for the home cultivation of cannabis but prohibits its commercial sale. Non-profit organizations, known as “harm reduction associations related to cannabis,” aim to meet consumer needs without commercializing the industry.
As reported by ARUC on its website, the objective is to “maintain an attitude of discouragement towards the use of cannabis,” while abandoning harsh criminal measures in Malta of the past.
Malta Creates a Unique Initiative in the EU
Although similar entities have informally existed in other parts of Europe for decades, the Maltese licenses are the first of their kind in the EU.
According to the 2021 law, sponsored by MP Owen Bonnici, adults can legally possess up to seven grams of cannabis and cultivate up to four plants for personal use. Up to 50 grams of cannabis can be stored at home. Possessing more than seven, but less than 28 grams, carries a fine of 50 to 100 euros without the risk of imprisonment. Minors caught with cannabis are referred to a justice commission to create a “care plan.”
Regulations and Limitations
Cannabis clubs in Malta can have up to 500 members and can distribute up to seven grams per day per member, and a maximum of 50 grams monthly. They can also distribute up to 20 cannabis seeds per month per member. The law aims to “find a balance between individual freedom and other social requirements.”
During parliamentary debates, there was discussion about introducing a THC limit in cannabis products in Malta, but this idea was ultimately abandoned. Bonnici emphasized the need to educate people instead of creating a new market for the black market.
Developments in Other European Countries
Meanwhile, in Germany, work has begun on legalizing cannabis. Legislation promoted by Health Minister Karl Lauterbach would allow adults to possess and cultivate cannabis. Like Malta, Germany also plans to establish social clubs for cannabis distribution.
Lauterbach stated that he received positive feedback from the EU on the preliminary framework of the reform. The German government obtained initial approval for legalization but sought the EU’s consent.
Officials from Malta, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands met in July 2022 to discuss cannabis legalization plans.
Public Opinion on Legalization in Malta and the EU
A survey from last year showed support for legalization in many European countries besides Malta.
The majority of respondents from eight countries supported legalization, except for the Netherlands. On average, 55% of respondents supported cannabis legalization, 25% were opposed, and 48% supported sales in regulated stores, 35% supported home cultivation, and 32% supported cannabis clubs.
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