The Mediterranean island of Malta is famous for many things – its beautiful scenery, tourist resorts and location for movies such as Assassin’s Creed and Troy.
To this list there is a new addition, as cannabis legalization in Malta was one of the big stories of 2021 and the country has become the first EU country to go recreational.
Cannabis Legalization in Malta Background
For Maltese cannabis growers and consumers the 2021 cannabis reform law has removed penalties for people possessing up to 7 grams of cannabis for personal use and allows the home cultivation of up to 4 cannabis plants.
Legislation has also approved the development of a system of cannabis social clubs (based on the Spanish model) as a model for retail sales. The government also established a ‘cannabis authority’ to oversee the process.
Similar to the experiences of other countries giving weed the green light, cannabis legalization in Malta is a journey and one that has significant obstacles to overcome.
In recent months there have been a number of reports talking about confusion and frustration with the progress, punctuated by headline stories that have focused on the negatives, such as passing a law without having a regulatory structure in place, the continuing hold of the black market and the arrest of a doctor accused of drug dealing.
Malta Cannabis Growers Society
Such attention is inevitable in the opinion of Pietro, founder of the Malta Cannabis Growers Society, which has gathered over 7000 members in the past five months. “The eyes of Europe, and maybe even the world, are on Malta so they are studying every move.
We think the government are doing a good job actually.
They made the law, established the authority and then went to the next phase of studying the market and preparing the regulations. There is a sense that they want to get it right, which we support, and they are consulting those in the community with cannabis knowledge which is a positive thing.”
The Malta Cannabis Growers Society is a not for profit organization and one of a number of organizations and companies applying for a license to produce and distribute cannabis.
In addition it serves as an education and knowledge hub for a huge number of new growers who are taking up the opportunity to legally grow four plants at home. They provide information, including how-to videos, on the organization’s Facebook page @MaltaGrowersSociety and Youtube channel.
Every region has its own environmental conditions to consider and in Malta growers have to contend with intense heat, which can reach as high as 40° in summer heatwaves, which can be a major summer issue in the grow room.
For this reason, Will from MCGS, explains that indoor growing is the most popular method used and growers are seeking out genetics which perform well in high temperatures (versatile strains such as Paradise Seeds’ Wappa and Tangerine Sorbet for example).
Malta Cannabis Legalization and Tourism
The MCGS is also passionate about overturning the stigma of cannabis and educating more conservative sections of Maltese society about the benefits of the cannabis plant, especially medical, in a professional way.
Malta has a reputation as a conservative country, with a strong Catholic tradition, and inevitably not all of the island’s population (just over half a million) are happy with the decision to legalize.
For this reason, perhaps it is surprising that it should be the first EU country to go legal, compared to a country like Germany which has more of a pro cannabis movement.
However, as a small country, Malta is experienced in embracing opportunities and moving fast, as illustrated by its early accommodation of cryptocurrency operators.
While working on the practicalities of how the new legalized system will operate, the ‘elephant in the room’ is how a legalized state will interact with tourism.
The island is a top tourist destination and receives 1.5 – 2 million tourists a year, so how will the legalization dynamic impact on the island’s tourism industry?
In an interview with The Times of Malta, cannabis authority chairperson, Mariella Dimech said, “Some people are imagining coffee shops cropping up everywhere selling weed and tourists coming over to the island to smoke drugs.
They’re imagining Malta becoming another Amsterdam. None of that is in the law. The law doesn’t allow a tourist to buy weed. It doesn’t allow coffee shops.”
Keeping the country’s tourism industry separate from its new cannabis industry will be just one of the challenges facing the authority as the government attempts to turn the law into a working process.
Europe is definitely watching and what happens in Malta may influence what legalization looks like as more dominos begin to fall in the game of European legalization.