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malta

Malta To Start Accepting Cannabis Club Applications By February

Malta made continental history late in 2021 when lawmakers passed Europe’s first nationwide adult-use legalization measure. Prior to legalization passing in Malta, the only two other countries that had previously passed national legalization measures were Uruguay in 2013 and Canada in 2018. However, unlike its predecessors, Malta’s legalization model does not provide for sales through pharmacies, storefronts, and for-profit delivery services. Rather, Malta’s legalization model will be built on non-profit cannabis clubs, applications for which people can start submitting as early as February 2023.

Despite legalization’s passage in Malta late last year, there are still no legal means by which to purchase legal adult-use cannabis products. Whereas consumers have a buffet of options from which to make cannabis purchases in Canada, and to a lesser extent Uruguay (residents only), consumers in Malta have continued to wait until the regulatory framework is set up for non-profit cannabis clubs. Thankfully, there appears to be some progress on that front.

Accepting Applications In 2023

The non-profit cannabis club model is not a new concept. Barcelona, where we co-host the world’s largest cannabis super-conference every year along with Spannabis, is home to numerous private cannabis clubs where people can acquire cannabis as well as consume it in a social setting. Uruguay is also home to hundreds of private cannabis clubs, although Uruguay has implemented a regulated system for cannabis clubs compared to Spain where clubs still operate in somewhat of a grey area of the law.

In Malta there will only be two legal sources for adult-use cannabis. One of them is home cultivation. Adult households in Malta can cultivate up to four plants, per the law that was passed late last year. The other source for adult-use cannabis will, of course, be cannabis clubs. However, clubs cannot exist without first having a license, and generally speaking a license cannot be obtained until there is an application and approval process set up. That last part is reportedly finally happening in February 2023 in Malta.

“The Authority for the Responsible Use of Cannabis will be in a position to start accepting applications for cannabis club licenses by next February, according to Parliamentary Secretary Rebecca Buttigieg.” stated Malta Today in its domestic coverage. Malta’s Authority for the Responsible Use of Cannabis will oversee the non-profit sector, including the cannabis club application process. Leonid McKay is currently the executive chair of the authority.

What About The European Union?

Currently, an adult-use legalization measure is looming in Germany, with the nation’s Health Minister Karl Lauterbach currently lobbying the European Union to gain approval prior to formally introducing the measure so that lawmakers in Germany can officially consider it. While some lawmakers in Germany have called for the measure to be introduced immediately, the Health Minister appears to still be seeking EU approval first, at least for the time being.

An obvious question that international cannabis observers are asking on social media and beyond is why is Malta legalizing without so much European Union involvement compared to Germany? It’s a straightforward question that yields some fairly complicated answers. The less complicated answer is that Malta’s legalization model is far more limited than what is being proposed in Germany. Lawmakers in Germany are proposing a nationwide adult-use market where legal purchases will be made at storefronts, similar to what is going on in Canada but on a much larger scale. Malta will have non-profit clubs where people can acquire cannabis, but only if they are members and membership will be limited in many ways I’d assume.

The more complex answer is that Germany’s Health Minister is likely pursuing a strategy that will save legal and political headaches down the road. If the European Union gives its blessing to Germany’s plan, then it largely thwarts potential legal challenges from other EU member nations and mitigates some of the probability of German legalization becoming a political punching bag for cannabis prohibitionists. EU approval would be a final answer in many ways, and while challenges would likely still be pursued, it would be nearly guaranteed that legalization would overcome any challenges if EU approval was granted prior to a legalization measure’s introduction. With that being said, the EU presumably realizes that the decision on Germany will set a precedent, and a big one at that, so it’s not a decision that will be made hastily. The longer it takes for the decision to be rendered, the louder the calls will become within Germany’s borders for lawmakers to hit the gas pedal. In the meantime, the framework for Malta’s limited legalization model will continue to develop.

Europe, Germany, malta

marsaxlokk malta

Malta Has Not Issued Any Licenses To Cannabis Associations And Clubs

Eight months after the new rules on cannabis use came into effect, the government has failed to issue a single license allowing such establishments to begin operating

Despite leading the way on cannabis legalization in Europe, the Maltese government has yet to issue a single license allowing non-profit cannabis associations and clubs to operate. The government has also failed to issue any regulations or guidelines for the operation of the same.

The government entity responsible for the same, the Authority on the Responsible Use of Cannabis (ARUC), has said that the process of issuing such licenses was “delicate” and “could not be done overnight.”

Where Is the Timeline?

According to Authority chairperson Mariella Dimech, a baseline study on the general population has been conducted. This study will serve as a foundation for the ARUC to create operating guidelines and regulations for such establishments.

That said, there are a few rules which are now in force that will undoubtedly shape the conversation.

Currently adults are allowed to carry up to 7g of cannabis when they venture outside of their houses – although they may not smoke in public. Residents of the island are also able to cultivate up to four plants.

Beyond this, the government has already established that such associations will be limited to 500 members each, must be located at least 250 meters away from schools or youth centres, and cannot advertise their services – including having signs that include either the word “cannabis” or pictures of the plant itself.

What Does This Mean for Other EU countries on the Cusp?

Nobody ever said that legalization was easy. On a federal level, it is even more challenging. See Canada, for starters. Yet in Europe, this conversation is even more complicated by the necessity of remaining in compliance with both regional and international laws. This is one of the reasons that Malta, along with Luxembourg and Germany, have begun multilateral discussions on how to legalize the recreational industry.

That said, it is clear that of the three, Malta has paved the way – even ahead of Luxembourg which promised a recreational market by 2023 (five years ago).

For this reason, it is unlikely that the creation of an entire non-profit industry will happen at a fast pace. It is also very likely that Malta is in discussion with the other two countries in the coalition on how to proceed domestically, particularly as what happens here may well be used as a blueprint for reform in at least these other two countries.

malta

cannabis bud leaf plant

Which Country Has ‘The Best’ Cannabis Legalization Model?

Cannabis prohibition, thankfully, has not always existed. For thousands of years, humans used the cannabis plant for various purposes, and it was only in the 1900s that cannabis prohibition first became a widespread public policy around the globe.

As I have said many times and will say until the day that I die, cannabis prohibition is one of the most harmful public policies in the history of humans. Countless people have had their lives needlessly ruined because of the cannabis plant, despite the fact that cannabis is safer than many of the products people have in their homes.

Fortunately, the walls of cannabis prohibition are slowly but surely crumbling, and now there are multiple countries within the global community that have legalized cannabis for adult use. Lawmakers in Uruguay, Canada, and Malta have all passed adult-use legalization measures, and all three countries have different legalization models.

Buying And Cultivating

All three countries that have legalized cannabis at the national level currently have the same legal age, 18 years old, and all three countries permit adults of legal age to cultivate cannabis at home, although Canada has seen some local bans that are working their way through various legal challenges.

The real difference between Uruguay, Canada, and Malta’s legalization models can be found in how people legally purchase cannabis for adult use. Uruguay, the first country to ever legalize cannabis for adult use, limits purchases to clubs and pharmacies, and only citizens and permanent residents can make purchases (although that is changing at some point).

Malta is still setting up rules and regulations after becoming the first country in Europe to legalize cannabis for adult use late last year. When sales do begin in Malta, they will only occur via private clubs – no dispensaries. From a purely purchasing standpoint, Canada has the best legalization model in that anyone from anywhere can make a purchase as long as they are of legal age, and those purchases can be made through the mail, via storefronts, and virtually any other way that people can buy cannabis.

More Legalization On The Horizon

Uruguay was the first country to ever legalize cannabis at a national level. Canada was the first G-7 country to legalize cannabis for adult use. Malta was the first country in Europe to pass an adult-use legalization measure. All three of those countries have a claim to being the first to legalize cannabis in some manner, however, none of them will be the last.

Multiple countries (Denmark, Switzerland, the Netherlands) are launching or expanding adult-use legalization pilot programs that create localized legalization. Multiple other countries (Mexico, Italy, South Africa) have had their top courts render decisions against cannabis prohibition policies and lawmakers there are working to fully implement legalization.

Germany, which is home to one of the largest economies on planet earth, is trending closer to legalization every month. The largest prohibition domino, the United States, is witnessing the continued spread of legalization at the state level with every passing year either via the election process or the legislative process. With that in mind, more legalization models are on the horizon and while all of them are likely to incorporate some policy components that are already implemented in current legalized nations, there will be new policy components introduced as well as more countries get on the right side of history, with some new policies being more nuanced than others.

Trying to determine what is ‘the best’ is a subjective measurement, and largely in the eye of the beholder. That is true of cannabis legalization policies just as it is with virtually anything else. What is considered to be ‘the best’ cannabis policy in one region may not work at all in different regions. With that being said, every legalization model is better than locking humans in prison cells due to them being caught with cannabis.

Canada, malta, uruguay

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