6 Things We Learnt At Malta's First World Medical Cannabis Forum
Everyone from Joseph Muscat to millionaire investors were ready to roll with the new industry
Between international investors saying "capital is not an issue for us", tech entrepreneurs explaining how their DLT is going to revolutionise the medical cannabis industry, and a number of high-ranking government officials stating their strong support for a successful start to this new green chapter in Malta's history, day one of the first World Medical Cannabis Forum sure was surreal.
Half a decade ago, imagining so much interest and investment in Malta's medical cannabis industry would have been impossible. But then again, the global medical cannabis market is about to explode, with estimates that the European market alone is going to be worth €2.1 billion within a few years.
Malta has positioned itself as the leader in this European race, with legislation already in place, and it's now time for the first-movers to start rolling in. And it wasn't just foreign companies in the building - representatives from local pharmaceutical companies like Browns, Associated Drugs, and Pharma.MT were also in attendance among everything from audit and tax companies to laboratory specialists.
Everyone from Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to the technicians seemed excited and ready to begin what could be Malta's next big industry - medical marijuana.
1. Land at Ħal Far is being allotted for medical cannabis laboratory facilities
This group of buildings will become the heart of the local industry, and it is where employees will be heading to do all sorts of things, from extraction to manufacturing.
Malta Enterprise CEO Mario Galea confirmed that, contrary to reports of sites like Bulebel or Marsa being set aside for the industry, the government organ will be dedicating a site in Ħal Far for companies to build their facilities.
One foreign company showed Lovin Malta the blueprints for its planned facility, which is set to include everything from a grow room to an advanced processing room as well as multiple fire exits.
2. 10 companies have been approved by Malta Enterprise to set up shop on the island
And another 10 have not, with one European entrepreneur whose company was refused saying Malta's due diligence procedures had led to the refusal.
Government officials were happy to tout how "rigid" their due diligence, with authorities preferring to err on the side of caution at the infancy of their new industry.
3. The government is aggressively courting specialist companies to the island
One company that specialises in a particular type of equipment, which, they claimed, would be able to return an investor's money "within 32 days", said the government was going out of its way to entice particular companies to the island.
A new pharmaceutical industry needs all types of parts to work, and companies who can provide what's needed are being "aggressively" sought after - an invitation most companies were happy to oblige.
4. Artificial intelligence + blockchain technology + medical cannabis = an actual thing in Malta
Drawn by Malta's avant-garde AI, DLT and cannabis legislations, tech companies are vying to set up shop in Malta, with a variety of integrated solutions.
One company, Melabis, promises that its tech will be able to record everything from dosage to strain use to how the patient is feeling before and after ingestion - all in a transparent and open way.
Another tech company's representative compared what's currently happening on the island to what happened with the internet circa 1996, saying: "Someone eventually has to become the Google."
5. Everyone agrees that there needs to be more education for doctors who will need to do the actual prescribing
Multiple panel speakers touched upon the need for more education into the therapeutic benefits of medical cannabis. One Maltese doctor that had never prescribed medical cannabis said he wasn't sure enough of the new drug to feel comfortable enough prescribing it.
Since legalisation of cannabis, all GPs in Malta are allowed to prescribe cannabis. However, following legalisation, all that was set up was one education meeting that seemed to confuse more than clarify.
Doctors and pharmacies hoped that the government would offer a course to explain how to use this drug that, until mere months ago, the government condemned as a criminal offense to use.
6. After medicinal cannabis, recreational cannabis could very well be next
The legalisation of recreational, or personal, use of cannabis was on people's lips, from government officials to foreign analysts.
One analyst said legalising Malta legalising cannabis was an obvious and needed "public policy decision", and a government official would be focusing on a "harm reduction" approach in 2019.