Malta will soon allow people to purchase weed from “cannabis associations”, an exciting step forward for the country’s long-suffering cannabis communities.
However, don’t expect these associations to resemble the famous social clubs of Barcelona or the coffeeshops of Amsterdam, places you can visit to smoke the plant in a relaxed atmosphere.
Lovin Malta recently met up with Reforms Minister Owen Bonnici to delve into the specifics of the bill which he presented to Parliament this month.
Anyone who wants to set up a cannabis association must first set up a NGO by registering with the Commissioner for Voluntary Organisations and then apply for a license with the newly-established Authority on the Responsible Use of Cannabis.
Just like NGOs, cannabis associations will be able to employ staff on a full-time staff basis.
As part of the licensing process, an association must reach an agreement with the Cannabis Authority on a place where it can grow cannabis, and if necessary how it will be transported from its growing site to its premises.
Bonnici explained that the associations will be able to purchase cannabis seeds from anywhere once the bill becomes law as they contain less than 0.2% THC.
Once licensed, the association can recruit up to 500 members for whom it will grow the plant.
People can only be members of one cannabis association and will be able to purchase up to 7g of cannabis a day and 50g a month, as well as up to 20 seeds from them.
They can pick up the cannabis from association-run dispensaries at a location which isn’t close to a school, youth club or a place frequented by youths.
These dispensaries won’t be able to put up any kind of signage to promote themselves, which means that to all non-members, they will just be regular buildings.
Associations will have quite a lot of flexibility on how to design their interiors but will have to obey some ground rules.
Specifically, members won’t be allowed to smoke or drink alcohol inside, and no more than 500g of dried cannabis can be inside the premises at any given moment.
“The idea is that you shouldn’t stay there to socialise but that you should pick up the cannabis, walk out and take it at home,” Bonnici explained.
Associations must also ensure their cannabis packaging is approved by the Cannabis Authority, but Bonnici said that there won’t be any kind of design guidelines and that the authority will just want to know which packaging belongs to which association.
Besides cannabis associations, the Bill also proposes that people should be able to carry up to seven grams of cannabis on their person and grow up to four plants at home, as well as the expungement of cannabis-possession-related criminal records.
Bonnici said he hopes Malta will be able to position itself as a European trailblazer on cannabis reform as it was on LGBTIQ rights.
“Once we set everything up here, we can go overseas and ask why others don’t do this as well. We have to create a European debate because the war against drugs failed, certainly in terms of cannabis,” he said.
Are you looking forward to the cannabis reform bill passing into law?