Malta is the first country in the European Union to legalize recreational cannabis. Since December 2021, in this small island country, adults have the right to grow, possess and consume cannabis within certain limits established by law.

The flag of Malta over the port of Valletta, the country's capital.
The flag of Malta over the port of Valletta, the country's capital.

The legalization of cannabis in Malta has been promoted by the Minister for Equality, Research and Innovation, Owen Bonnici, who has made it clear that the main objective of this measure is to put an end to the criminalization of people for the simple act of smoking cannabis and to reduce the illicit traffic associated with this substance.

 

“…We’re not urging anyone or advising anyone to make use of any sort of drugs or substance. But if a person decides to make use of cannabis, it should not be treated like a criminal. That is our position.” Said Bonnici in an interview for Times of Malta.

The Minister for Equality, Research and Innovation, Owen Bonnici, in a press conference. Photo from: Chris Sant Fournier.
The Minister for Equality, Research and Innovation, Owen Bonnici, in a press conference. Photo from: Chris Sant Fournier.

Under this law, adults in Malta can carry up to 7 grams of cannabis, grow up to 4 plants in their homes and store up to 50 grams of dried cannabis for their own consumption. However, it is still illegal to smoke cannabis in public places. Also, the formation of non-profit cannabis associations has been allowed. These associations are authorized to grow cannabis and distribute it among their members. Each member can receive up to 7 grams per day and a maximum of 50 grams per month.

Four cannabis seedlings growing.
Four cannabis seedlings growing.

The law, enacted with the signature of President George Vella, has led to the creation of the Authority for the Responsible Use of Cannabis, a new public organism charged with overseeing the implementation and regulation of cannabis legalization in Malta.

Two supporters celebrate the passage of this law in 2021 in front of Malta's parliament. Photo from: Reuters.
Two supporters celebrate the passage of this law in 2021 in front of Malta's parliament. Photo from: Reuters.

This new legislative framework also establishes measures to protect minors. Those under 18 who are found in possession of cannabis will not be detained, but will appear before a justice commission that will enroll them into a “care plan”. On the other hand, cannabis associations cannot be located near schools or youth clubs and fines will be imposed on those who consume cannabis in front of minors.

 

It’s noteworthy that Malta has emerged as a leader in this area inside Europe, and as is happening with Germany, is likely that other European Union countries will follow in its footsteps in the near future. Outside the European continent, countries such as Canada, Mexico and several states in the United States have already enacted similar laws, marking a global trend towards cannabis legalization and regulation.

 

This trend is a clear reflection of the change in approach that several governments are adopting in relation to this plant, increasingly recognizing the therapeutic value and regulatory potential of cannabis.

A woman taking care of a cannabis plant.
A woman taking care of a cannabis plant.

In conclusion, the legalization of cannabis in Malta is a significant milestone in Europe and in the global landscape of cannabis regulation. This move demonstrates a more progressive and pragmatic approach to cannabis use, moving away from criminalization and towards responsible regulation. Other European countries are likely to follow suit in the future, which could lead to greater harmonization of cannabis policies in the European Union and elsewhere in the world. The global trend towards legalization and regulation of cannabis shows that its therapeutic potential and the benefits of a controlled and safe market are increasingly recognized.

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