European Cannabis Round-Up: Malta’s Main Opposition Party Backs Cannabis, Medical Cannabis For Albania? PepsiCo’s Hemp Trial, German Businesses Battle Hemp Police

DESPITE fears to the contrary Malta’s main political opposition the National Party has confirmed it will keep its adult-use cannabis legislation if it wins this year’s General Election

In December, last year, Malta’s Government led by the majority Labour Party agreed to permit those over 18 to grow up to four plants at home, and carry up to 7gms on their person.

In the run-up to the passing of the law the opposition National Party led by Bernard Grech decided to oppose the law on the grounds that it will ‘normalise and give rise to an increase in drug abuse’. 

However, in an interview with Lovin Malta, Mr Grech said he had no intention of repealing the law if it wins the election.

“We want to keep on moving forwards. The law is there and we don’t have a problem with it remaining there.”

The PN’s stance on cannabis reform has fluctuated in recent years. In August 2020 Mr Grech said reform should tackle how people can purchase the plant through legal means and even took credit for the bill when it was published. 

However, the party’s parliamentary group then decided to oppose the law but with the General Election scheduled for later this year it seems as if the law is here to stay.

Malta – A Model for Europe

Meanwhile, the Labour Party Minister responsible for tending prohibition, Owen Bonnici, says its policy shift should serve as a model for other European states to follow.

Mr Bonnici told Euronews that its new approach meant recreational users would no longer be dragged through the courts for possession of small amounts of cannabis.

He said that by allowing users and, eventually, non-profit organisations to grow cannabis plants and distribute it to others via cannabis associations, it will stymie the black market and the ‘international criminal gangs’.

As a practising lawyer, before entering Parliament Mr Bonnici, had first-hand experienced of low-level cannabis users being dragged through the courts. 

“I would be looking at them and completely at a loss about what to tell them. I heard stories of people who literally passed through hardship because of, I don’t know, four grams of cannabis.

“You realise that if you want to make a difference to people’s lives, you have to take bold decisions,” he said.

Albanian Medical Cannabis

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama has launched a national consultation seeking the views of Albanians on the legalisation of medical cannabis, reports Newsweed.

The questionnaire states: “Some believe that Albania should allow the cultivation, processing and export of cannabis for medical purposes, under state control, without legalising it for personal use.

“Others say cannabis shouldn’t be allowed for medical purposes either. What do you think?” 

It continues:  “As the experience of different countries in the region or in the world shows, the controlled use of cannabis by the state has a very positive impact not only on health, but also on economic growth and the fight against illegal use of this plant.”

Since the fall of the former communist regime, Albania has become one of the largest cannabis producing countries in Europe. 

As well as medical cannabis being prohibited, hemp has been on the narcotics list since 2000.

Pepsi Loves Hemp

Soft drink giant PepsiCo has announced the launch of a new hemp seed-infused energy drinks into the US market, following its launch in Germany last year.

Las Vegas-based drinks brand Rockstar Energy, was bought by PepsiCo for $3.85bn last year, and launched its line of hemp-infused drinks in Germany in 2021.

Fabiola Torres, PepsiCo’s general manager and chief marketing officer of the Rockstar brand, said of the drinks: “It’s a combination of herbals that can help us to relax, but not to sleep.”

German Hemp Fightback

In Germany The Cannabis Industry Association (BvCW) has documented with extensive research why it is practically impossible for industrial hemp to be misused for intoxication purposes. 

According to an exemption in the Narcotics Act (BtMG), commercial hemp may only be dispensed or sold if misuse (for intoxicating purposes) is excluded. 

Numerous public prosecutions are currently underway against businesses selling hemp products with a THC content of less than 0.2% – supported by claims they have the  potential for abuse, as BusinessCann has previously reported.

“After reading our paper, it should be clear that the numerous charges against small and medium-sized companies should now be dropped,” says Marijn Roersch van der Hoogte, departmental coordinator for industrial hemp and food at the BvCW

He added: “With the research, the BvCW now comprehensively explains why abuse is ruled out in practice. 

“The cost and effort are out of all proportion to the yield, and highly potent cannabis is readily available on the black market.”

The expert opinion on why the abuse of hemp is practically impossible can be found here 

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