Malta Is Finally Getting Serious About Its Medical Marijuana Industry
But it's not all red roses and green buds on the island just yet
If you had asked any Maltese cannabis user if they expected a change in the national weed laws four years ago, you would have been laughed out of the building, most probably in a cloud of smoke.
But in the space of a few years, the Maltese government has changed track and is headed straight for Greenville - and 2018 is when the scene on the ground will actually change.
With (very) tentative plans for a restricted and regulated commercial market in the pipeline and the legislation of a medical marijuana industry all but written into law, here are some of the major changes happening to Malta's cannabis industry.
1. The medical marijuana bill just passed its second reading
Parliament approved the passing of the second reading of the medicinal marijuana bill last night. The bill would amend the current laws to allow non-smokable types of medicinal marijuana in Malta.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Health Chris Fearne said that he was "happy to see that there is consensus on this issue," and said he was even happy to see someone like Edwin Vassallo agreeing with this bill.
He said that every Maltese doctor registered with the Maltese Medical Council can prescribe medicinal marijuana, as opposed to the current system where only a handful of government-approved doctors can give prescriptions.
He also said that Maltese patients, doctors and pharmacists also agreed wth medicinal marijuana being available in Malta.
However, Minister Fearne said that the medicine will be controlled like other narcotic medicines. The Superintendent of Health will have a registry that will keep all the details relating to medicinal marijuana prescriptions, from the amounts taken to the doses to how long the patient is taking it, among other things.
He also said that after the third (and final) reading of the bill, the government will be issuing a guidebook for doctors explaining how the new system will work.
The government will also be issuing a guidebook for importers explaining how the importation system will work.
2. Medical marijuana manufacturers finally have guidelines to work with
Legislation providing for the production of cannabis for medicinal use has finally been published, and it lays out the framework that manufacturers would need to comply with.
3. And Maltese companies can manufacture locally and export to Europe
Not only will companies be allowed to produce medicinal cannabis in Malta, but they will be able to export the medicine to other European countries where it is legal.
4. The first major cannabis company has publicly set its eyes on Malta
Nuuvera is a Canadian cannabis processing and extraction company that was recently acquired by Aphria, a cannabis production company, for €538 million.
Combined, they are set to become a major global cannabis business player, and they are keen to have a foothold on the island as the laws open up to production.
They seek to set up an upgraded laboratory on the island that is part of their $5 million European business expansion.
In a non-binding letter of intent sent on 25th September, 2017, they stated that they represented "three individuals, one of whom has an interest in a GMP-certified laboratory for analytical testing and release including in respect of narcotics. Through this arrangement, if it comes to fruition, Nuuvera and the prospective local partners will establish a joint venture which Nuuvera will control, which will in turn seek to acquire this GMP certified laboratory.”
“Nuuvera has developed strategies to expand in several foreign cannabis markets, including Germany, Israel, Italy and Malta. It intends to focus on low-cost, high-quality inputs and build GMP-certified labs to create products and formulations for distribution to local and global markets."
If Nuuvera successfully apply once legislation is confirmed, they might become one of the first companies in Malta to get a license to import/export medicinal marijuana products, as well as grow and produce cannabis in Malta.
“This would assist in obtaining GMP certification of the local production facility according to European Union standards, establishing a certified laboratory to export cannabis products to other EU markets,” Nuuvera said.
5. The change in Malta is part of a regional change
While it may seem like Malta is raring ahead of other European countries, 2018 seems to be the year that other countries in the Mediterranean begin to loosen their cannabis laws as well.
Barcelona has been spearheading a unique 'social clubs' system that is working wonders and may give Amsterdam a run for its money in the coming years. And Italy is slowly opening up its medical marijuana industry as well, with medical dispensaries with smokable products opening up in cities like Turin just this past weekend.