The tiny island nation of Malta has just become the fifth EU member state to announce that it is entering the ring of “responsible cannabis use”. This is because it is far too embarrassing at this point not to address a major problem on the island that is not going away. This is a situation that more and more jurisdictions find themselves in, from state markets in the US to sovereign nations in Europe.
In fact, the list of countries currently in this corner includes (outside of Holland) Denmark, Luxembourg, and Switzerland. And of course not Portugal, which has a famous laissez-faire approach to the whole discussion. It is also worth mentioning Italy, where both medicinal use and personal cultivation (of up to three plants) are now allowed.
The final straw to break this on-site debate was the arrest of a young couple at a local hotel on Valentine’s Day. The arrest for possession and charges in connection with drug trafficking caused outrage across the country – including among the interior minister and other politicians as well as local celebrities.
In response, Prime Minister Robert Abela announced that he would soon be putting forward a bill to legalize the “responsible use” of the cannabis plant. Medical cannabis has been legal in Malta since 2018. Indeed, this change in law has since resulted in significant commercial development on the medical side of the industry. This is particularly true for Canadian companies, but increasingly also for others who want to capitalize on the island’s long cultural ties with Great Britain.
The impact on Malta – and the EU beyond
Indeed, Malta is poised to be one of the most interesting foreign markets for Germany, if not Europe, when it comes to regulated medicinal cannabis cultivation. The fact that the Canadian-UK company Materia recently joined the EU GMP Club to grow in Malta and mine and process in Germany is an interesting development in a trend that has long been in sight.
Indeed, Malta and beyond Greece and Portugal are rapidly developing into one of the most important regulated feeder markets in Europe – even if it is a crude oil or cannabis flower grower for a German certified drug (or any other) type of manufacturer.
Internally, the change will be a welcome victory for advocates, including legalization NGO Releaf, which has repeatedly confronted lawmakers with inconvenient facts related to the continued status quo on cannabis. One of the most compelling aspects of their campaign, which has just emerged in the national drive to finally allow for limited recreational reform, is that the vast majority of arrests on the island are for personal belongings.
However, like Italy, Malta is only the second country in Europe to admit this fundamental fact: there is no way the island’s now-based export medicine business could exist while local patients and other users cannot easily access the facility.
The impact on leisure reform across Europe
Much like the United States, where reforms were first medical and then recreational, the first shades of green reform in the United States of Europe are unfolding in a similar manner. It still happens on the edges. After all, France has just agreed to proceed with the country’s first national medical study. And in both France and Germany, this type of reform is unlikely to emerge anytime soon.
Since Luxembourg, together with the Swiss, will also be decisive with a leisure experiment next year, this latest step by the Maltese will only put regional progress under pressure. No matter how incremental it may seem at first glance.
In addition, it is of course clear to many that after the return of tourism, Malta, like Greece, if not some of the Spanish islands including the Canary Islands, expects that many of its visitors will look for a vacation with cannabis – albeit medical ones .
The ramifications in Malta, which is home to its own international financial market, including the crypto-type, may also cause a European financial industry, still very suspicious of the whole conversation, to bring on more financial oversight. However, a pulsating investment climate in the cannabis industry makes a lot of sense here, especially after the new openness of the LSE in London.
In other words, all these forces together mean many positive green days for the island.