By Emily Ledger
Many have advocated for cannabis policy reforms in Malta over the last few years, covering the liberalisation of CBD and hemp regulations and, more recently, cannabis legalisation. In fact, the debate around the outright legalisation of cannabis in the country has recently picked up a significant amount of momentum.
This week, Malta’s Equality Minister Owen Bonnici announced the release of a draft bill that effectively legalise the personal use of cannabis.
Under the proposed legislation, non-profit organisations would be permitted to grow cannabis for distribution to private members. Citizens would also be allowed to grow up to four plants at one residence for personal use.
Bonnici announced the draft bill on Wednesday (6th October) during a press conference. According to Bonnici, the proposed changes are not designed to “incentivise cannabis culture or cannabis consumption” but with an aim to reduce the harm of drugs.
He continued: “We want to reduce the suffering, humiliation and deprivation of other rights that many cannabis users have experienced when they have been subjected to arrest and judicial proceedings on possession of small amounts.”
Original proposals for the legalisation of cannabis in Malta were floated earlier this year in the form of a White Paper on Strengthening the Legal Framework on the Responsible Use of Cannabis. The proposal was launched on 30 March.
This more recent proposal, however, reportedly adds the regulation of cannabis clubs to the potential legislation.
Other provisions made in the proposed bill include limitations on the amount of cannabis permitted for possession (7 grams) and restrictions of consumption – except for medical cannabis – in public places.
Cannabis clubs would be permitted to form for the purpose of cultivating cannabis for distribution to its members – no more than 7 grams per member per day (maximum of 50 grams per month). They must be non-profit organisations and people would not be permitted to be a member of more than one club.
The leader of the opposition party, Bernard Grech, had previously criticised aspects of the past legislation, stating that more provisions should be made to determine how cannabis should be purchased if legalised.
Following Bonnici’s announcement of the new proposal, however, Grech has celebrated the changes: “Today, the government amended its proposal in line with what I said, through the introduction of associations by membership. This is yet another instance of how the Opposition is making change happen.”