Understanding the Medical Cannabis Laws of Malta
Malta, the small island nation took a significant decision to regulate its medical cannabis laws. It authorised the use and possession of medical cannabis with a prescription. Whilst cannabis for recreational use remains an arrestable offence in Malta.
The 2015 Drug Dependence Act laid out the guidelines for patients to obtain cannabis-based medication prescriptions from government-approved physicians.
In another effort to reinvent itself as the medical cannabis capital of Europe, in March 2018, Malta officially legalised medical cannabis.
As per the new Malta Cannabis laws, the Production of Cannabis for Medicinal and Research Purposes Act allowed entities to cultivate, import, process and produce cannabis intended for medical and research purposes under a controlled and supervised environment – provided all necessary regulations were complied with.
This article will broadly be focusing on the new Medical Cannabis Laws of Malta:
Advantages of Regulating and Legalising Medical Cannabis in Malta
Below are some of the advantages of regulating and legalising Medical Cannabis in Malta:
The assurance of access to medicinal cannabis to those who need it;
The removal of punitive measures and criminalisation of drug users in Maltese society; and
The allowance of Maltese citizens to partake in the legal, regulated cannabis industry, and boost the economy through job creation and taxation.
Malta Cannabis Laws for Medical Purposes
For the production of cannabis for medicinal and research purposes, several laws were put into place:
Without obtaining all the necessary approvals, authorisations, licences and/or permits under all applicable laws:
No cultivation, importation or processing of cannabis can be carried out in Malta;
No production of any products intended for medicinal and/or research purposes using cannabis can be carried out in Malta; and
No trade-in cannabis and/or any preparations intended for medicinal and/or research purposes using cannabis can be carried out in Malta.
Anyone who intends on carrying out any of the activities listed above is required to:
Comply with the terms of Production of Cannabis for Medicinal and Research Purposes Act;
Obtain a letter of intent from Malta Enterprise;
Adhere to all the regulations, including any international obligations resulting from a treaty to which Malta may from time to time be a party to;
Comply with all regulations relating to the production and quality standards of products for medicinal and/or research purposes, as the case may be, as applicable under the Medicines Act and with any other relevant regulations;
Obtain a licence from the regulatory authority; and
Comply with any other relevant regulations as shall, from time to time, be promulgated under the Act or any other applicable law.
How Malta’s Medical Cannabis Policy Works
Under the new medical cannabis legislation, patients with debilitating conditions can visit any Maltese doctor registered with Malta’s Medical Council and acquire a prescription for medicinal preparations of the plant cannabis products licensed under the Medicines Act or manufactured under Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), provided that there is no viable alternative to such a prescription.
As per the new policy, the physicians are required to show that prior to prescribing medicinal cannabis products, other treatments (at least one treatment) were used and that medicinal marijuana products are not being used as first-line treatment.
Once qualified, the patients can then request for a Drug Control Card, which will be issued by Malta’s Superintendent of Public Health. The drug control card, along with a valid prescription, will enable them to purchase non-smokable forms of medical cannabis directly from pharmacies.
Cannabis drugs will be closely monitored, much like prescription narcotics (drugs of dependence and addiction (DDAs), antidepressants, anxiolytics).
Patient details; date; product dispensed, dose and amount; and details of the prescribing doctor are then registered and kept in the Superintendent of Health’s records.
Possession and Cultivation of Medical Cannabis in Malta (Drug Laws in Malta)
There are two types of possessions recognised under the Maltese law:
Simple possession, or possession for personal use; and
Aggravated possession, or possession of drugs not for the offender’s exclusive use.
As per the Drug Dependence (Treatment not Imprisonment) Act 2014, anyone found in possession of a small quantity of drugs for personal use is tried in front of the Commissioner of Justice.
Any second time offender who commits an offence within a period of two years is required to attend the Drug Offenders Rehabilitation Board, where he or she is assessed for drug dependence and any necessary order may be issued; failure to comply with an order may be punished by a fine or three months in prison.
As far as the cultivation of cannabis for personal use is concerned, it is still illegal in Malta.
However, the new medical cannabis policy opens up a doorway for companies wishing to manufacture medical cannabis in Malta.
Benefits of Malta’s Medical Cannabis Industry
The cultivation of medical cannabis can potentially benefit the economy of Malta in numerous ways:
Companies who apply for permission to grow and/or process cannabis for medical purposes will need to employ a significant amount of workforce. This could be an added source of revenue and jobs for the country.
Another advantage could be the export and taxes on these commodities can bring a considerable amount of income to the local market.
Malta could seek to benefit from this potentially lucrative industry if the regulations are implemented correctly, and standards are maintained.
Protections for Malta’s Patients and Doctors
According to the laws, any registered practitioner in Malta will be able to prescribe cannabis legally as long as they abide by the norms set by Malta’s Superintendent of Public Health.
All the patients with debilitating conditions and a valid prescription from a doctor registered with Malta’s Medical Council can legally and safely obtain government-sanctioned cannabis medications.
Legalising medical cannabis in Malta not only gave access to government-sanctioned cannabis medication to qualified patients but also created an opportunity to attract foreign investors in its nascent medical cannabis industry and boost its economy.
With proper regulations and monitoring, it could downturn the black market, decrease the number of detainees, increase job creation and tax revenue as well as broaden Malta’s healthcare system.