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Malta Officially Votes To Become The First EU State to Legalise Recreational Cannabis

MALTA will now become the first European country to legalise cannabis for recreational use, with legislation expected to come into force over the coming days. 

The bill, spearheaded by Malta’s Minister for Equality, Research and Innovation Owen Bonnici, was brought before the Maltese Parliament earlier today. 

As was widely expected, the bill was approved by its members by 36 votes in favour and 27 against, with Malta’s President George Vella set to sign the proposals into law by this coming weekend, it is understood. 

Amid jubilant scenes outside the Maltese Parliament building, Mr Bonnici told Lovin Malta: “The opposition, which first gave the indication it was going to be in favour of the reform, verbalised its opposition to the last minute. 

“It’s a step of harm reduction. We always tell people to make healthy choices, but if a person decides to make use of cannabis they should be given a safe route to obtain it.

“We’re not perfect, but we’re in politics to change things, and this is the change we’re bringing.”

Under the new laws anyone over the age of 18 will be able to possess up to seven grams of cannabis on their person. 

Penalties for those who exceed these limits will also be drastically reduced, with those caught with up to 28 grams receiving no criminal records but potentially facing a fine of between $55 and $115. 

Punishments for consuming cannabis in front of children are harsher however, with those caught doing so facing a fine of between $340 and $565. 

Anyone under 18 caught consuming cannabis will also not face a criminal record, but will be sent to a judicial commission which will recommend a care plan. 

Grow Your Own Market

Another key part of the legislation will see it become legal to grow up to four cannabis plants in your home and store up to 50 grams of dried leaves. 

While Malta is Europe’s smallest territory, with a population of just over 525,000, this move could prevent businesses like cultivators and dispensaries from flourishing. 

Though the law changes may present some opportunities in seed sales and hydroponics. 

Damon Booth, CEO at Maltese-based cannabis company Melabis told BusinessCann: “I’m following very carefully where the potential opportunities may lie as a business in the space, that has been working in Malta since the first medical legislation. 

“Obviously the patients come first in this so I want to see how the NGO element of the social clubs will work, how the supply chain will work and if there’s room to help source great product for the patients and customers. 

“Then we have the grow-your-own side which obviously will require equipment and education, I see that as being the area most fun to get involved in albeit a small market in Malta.”

A More Social Model 

Master Grower at Greek cultivator Hellenic Dynamics Toby Shillito, said that Malta was targeting a ‘more social model’, in line with other Mediterranean countries like Italy, Spain and Portugal. 

“It’s a way of opening up cannabis consumption in a way that isn’t regulated and kind of corporatized, probably in contrast to Northern Europe, like Germany, the UK, Switzerland, possibly how it’s going to be in France”. 

He added that this left people free to ‘enjoy the plant in their own ways’, likening Malta’s new legislation to what is practiced in Barcelona.  

Under this model, citizens can purchase a membership to one of some 200 social clubs across city, usually costing around €10, then purchase and consume cannabis recreationally on the premises. 

Furthermore, Hellenic’s Vice President Davinder Rai said that he didn’t believe this would have much of an impact on demand for professionally produced cannabis in Malta. 

“There’s nothing stopping me brewing my own beer at home. You’re gonna have a very small percentage, in my opinion, of people who are actually going to be bothered. 

“I think it would be a hobby rather than a way of consuming. And I think if you’re a regular smoker, a recreational smoker for plants is not going to touch the sides for you.”

However, he cautioned that allowing people to grow their own cannabis could be ‘very dangerous’. 

“I also think there’s some scary parts of that. If I am allowed to grow for plants at home, where does that stop?

“I think what we’re trying to do on the medical side is provide a product that we know is safe, you know exactly what’s in it, you know where it was cultivated, you’ve got full traceability of the plants. 

“In my opinion I just think it’s dangerous to allow people to grow it at home when you’ve got a very regulated market. That is why their products are probably not much more expensive than buying all the equipment growing yourself.”

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