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Half-baked: Where does Malta currently stand on legalising cannabis?
A chat with Malta’s first cannabis legalisation movement.

Kristina Cassar Dowling

Marijuana use has been the source of many a joke in cult movies such as 1978's Cheech and Chong Up in Smoke, but with the plant recently becoming legal in many places around the world, we need to ask: what are its actual benefits? And what is the situation in Malta?

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Malta’s first cannabis legalisation movement, ReLeaf, is working hard to standardise and regularise the cannabis industry in Malta. They comment that “currently, Malta is in a half-baked decriminalised scenario, although the legislative developments from 2015 to the present day managed to bring substantial changes to the island. Now, a person caught with 3.5 grams or less is no longer considered a subject of the criminal justice system but is given an administrative fine.”

But it’s not all plain sailing: individuals caught with possession of this amount can be arrested for up to 48 hours, and also get interrogated, ReLeaf continue.

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The ReLeaf team also add that “the current system also continues to create problems, both to cannabis users but also to wider society. From a cannabis user perspective, the quality of cannabis in Malta is still quite low, and cannabis, especially resin, is frequently mixed with harmful substances like rubber or glass to add weight.” The quality of this product is not one that people should be using - there are far better cannabis products out there and Malta is only scratching the surface.

“In most cases, cannabis is not stored in a safe and humid-free environment, thus causing changes to the chemical composition of the cannabis plant. Furthermore, if a person is caught with a few plants or more grams than what is currently prescribed by the law, the person faces harsh criminal penalties and lengthy court procedures which usually take years to trash out,” ReLeaf representatives continue, also pointing out, “this also causes unnecessary stress and suffering to the family of the accused and jeopardises most job opportunities.”

What baffles users in Malta is their lack of knowledge on the product they are buying. ReLeaf comment that “the current system leaves cannabis users in the dark with regard to strain name, type of cannabis (Sativa, Indica and Hybrid), THC:CBD levels and other details that knowledgeable users would like to know.” This inhibits informed decisions and weakens users’ faith in a product.

Medicinal marijuana

When talking about the legal medicinal cannabis market, there are a few beams of light that may give patients suffering from a variety of problems a glimpse of hope. “With regards to the legal medicinal cannabis market, it is very encouraging that Malta has moved from a strict draconian law to a more humane approach.”

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Although we’ve achieved a new front here, ReLeaf point out that there are still a few issues that are not entirely up to standard, and these include THC:CBD ratios, selection of strains, screening processes (mostly lacking due to their lengthy process rates), and high prices. Where compared to the Netherlands’ €6 mark, Malta sells for €17. Indeed, there are many more issues that need to be discussed and properly understood by the general public.

The first issue is the difference between CBD and THC. What is it? Malta’s been given a good stream of information on the issue, and there are hundreds of articles out there imparting knowledge and know-how. These two cannabinoids work hand-in-hand and help in treating patients suffering from anxiety, arthritis, diabetes, MS, Hep C and so many others - depending on how and what users consume as therapy.

For the past few months, ReLeaf has also been calling on local authorities to provide more products and ensure that Maltese patients have full access to medicinal cannabis. ReLeaf was also recently invited to participate in the conference Ensuring Fair Access to Medical Cannabis for Patients in Europe organised by Cannabis Europe and held at the European Parliament on 11th April 2019.

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“Cannabis is used by different people for various reasons and at different intervals. The use of cannabis, like any other personal decision, is a personal choice. Living in a legalised and regulated market is merely recognising this fact and realising that policy has a direct impact on the well-being of the individual,” they continue.

On the issue of legalisation and regulation, ReLeaf has been in constant dialogue with Government. They have also met multiple stakeholders like Caritas and Oasi where they had fruitful discussions about the current scenario. ReLeaf close their argument with what they hope to achieve for the people of Malta.

“We believe Cannabis needs to become legal and regulated for three important reasons among others: to ensure cannabis users exercise their right to consume it in a safe and secure environment, without the fear of persecution; to ensure cannabis in Malta is of good quality and has not been tampered with by criminals or sold at very high prices by multi-national companies; and to allow for a better and more informed conversation about cannabis, its uses and effects."

The welfare of our community should always be kept at the highest regard - so it seems that while there’s a lot of work to do, with time, effort and well-informed professionals pushing the movement, the results have the potential to be astounding.

14th May 2019


Kristina Cassar Dowling
Written by
Kristina Cassar Dowling
A local writer in love with the Maltese islands, Kristina is a hunter for all things cultural both in Malta and outside its shores. A curious foodie, music fanatic, art lover and keen traveller with an open mind and a passion for writing.

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