Malta (kind of) legalizes medical cannabis

Malta is the newest name added to the growing list of countries joining the global cannabis revolution. Yesterday, the Maltese

View of a Maltese flag waving.

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Malta is the newest name added to the growing list of countries joining the global cannabis revolution.

Yesterday, the Maltese parliament announced amendments to the 2015 Drug Dependence Act passed after its third and final reading.

This announcement comes only three weeks after infamous Canadian cannabis advocate Marc Emery paid a visit to the country’s capital in the middle of his educational tour of South America and Europe.

The government made no connection between Emery’s visit and the amendments, but in a speech made to local activists the Prince of Pot called for more pressure from pro-cannabis organizations.

Emery called the country’s current approach “appalling” and urged organizations to keep fighting for legalization. He also denounced the government’s treatment of Christopher Bartolo, a 37-year-old Maltese kidney transplant patient who was jailed and sentenced to five years in prison after being caught with 167 grams of medical cannabis. Bartolo has since been released on bail and currently remains on house arrest.

Labour MP Stefan Zrinzo took to Twitter early yesterday to announce the landmark change.

Parliamentary secretary for consumer protection, Deo Debattista, also chimed in to applaud the government for its recognition of the plant’s therapeutic benefits.

The new law will permit doctors to prescribe cannabis to patients suffering from chronic pain, spasticity in multiple sclerosis and side effects of chemotherapy.

It outlines patients will only be permitted to use non-smoking forms of cannabis-derived products once they obtain a card showing they’ve been approved by Malta’s superintendent of public health.

Since the announcement, there have been several public responses from local organizations celebrating the long-awaited change. ReLeaf, the national pro-cannabis organization Emery spoke to during his visit, welcomes the change but says there are still many clarifications and improvements to be made.

“One issue with the bill is the restricted list of eligible conditions,” ReLeaf says in a press release published today, adding their concern that conditions like glaucoma, epilepsy and nausea are still not recognized by the Maltese government.

The organization urged the government to keep pricing down to ensure the products are accessible to all Maltese citizens. They went on to express a clear differentiation should be made between THC and CBD, the two most common compounds found in cannabis, and a need for accurate labeling standards.

The government also announced yesterday that The Malta Enterprise, the country’s economic development agency, has approved five new projects relating to the production of medical cannabis with a capital investment of €30 million (the equivalent of just under C$48 million). Of the five projects, three are Canadian. There is no mention of which companies are involved, other then to say they are ‘listed or are in the process of being listed on foreign stock exchanges.’

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