Cannabis culture in Malta has long been strong, though hidden underground – but Malta’s historic step to regulate the plant has led to a major coming out of the community online.
Decades of people being dragged through the court systems over their personal use of weed had taught the island’s weed smokers and tokers to be – generally – super cautious about their usage, and not be “hot” about it in public, for fear that the police may sweep down on you.
And everyone has key examples of this, being personally affected, or watching their friends be torn apart by the justice system. I always think of two close friends of mine who were caught rolling a joint in their car on the side of the road in Gżira years back.
They went through six years of regular piss tests and humiliating sittings in front of tribunals, and for what?
Nothing beyond them losing faith in the justice system – and still sneaking in a few puffs whenever they knew they could fit it into the timeframe before their next drug test.
Malta’s monumental changes to cannabis laws back in December made headlines worldwide – but you only need to look to local social media to really see what a difference Parliament has made in Maltese 4/20 culture.
One of the most important online channels for the cannabis community is the Facebook group Legalize It, Malta! (Full disclosure – the author is an admin of that group).
With over 15,000 members, this was the most public and open group when it comes to all things cannabis locally. Always relatively active, the group has exploded in activity over the last few months, with more and more people coming out with their own personal stories, sharing the traumatic experiences they went through in the past under the now redundant prohibition laws.
For the first time in the island’s history, cannabis users are opening up about what the plant means in their life, and in all honesty, it’s beautiful to see. It wasn’t so long ago that the same people would avoid even attending public rallies calling for legalisation – even if they strongly believed in it – because they knew the police had plain clothed policemen in the vicinity, taking shots of their faces.
After years of stigmatisation and misinformation, it was very difficult for many regular cannabis users to even publicly show their support for the plant. And this internal struggle between one’s personal beliefs and how society judges them lead to severe anxiety for many users, for years.
Now, it’s a bit of a different story though.
From tips of how to grow the dankest buds to people sharing their early morning joint before going on a run on the Coast Road to artists showing their daily inspiration, Malta’s cannabis community is supporting each other more than ever before – and the memes aren’t too bad either.
After years of feeling judged for using cannabis to suddenly finding they are part of a country pioneering cannabis regulations globally, Malta’s users have been making up for lost time, sharing their personal experiences with weed from the past – be it getting arrested and locked up for it, to that time they found some high quality product unexpectedly.
Users are also organising like never before – when a group of fundamentalists set up a stall to gather signatures as part of a petition calling for Malta’s new cannabis laws to be repealed, hundreds of users were able to share information about it between them, rallying the troops against these efforts.
People are also ready to help others who may not be too clear of what the law is, making sure that users stay within the legal guidelines and don’t end up in trouble.
But it’s not all seriousness – a recent discussion about the munchies people love to eat while high led to some, shall we say, unique foodie combinations being uttered in public for the first time.
“Baby pasta with Bovril, butter and Parmesan – love it,” said one man alongside a love heart emoji.
And the best part was, no one even minded – with Malta’s government making it clear that cannabis users deserve protections like other minorities on the island, the estimated 40,000 smokers finally feel safe enough to be themselves in public – without any legal consequences.
Do you feel more protected as a cannabis user since the island regulated personal use of the plant?