Lawmakers in Malta have just legalized medical cannabis in the country. This development adds Malta to the list of European countries that have joined the so-called global cannabis revolution.
The Maltese parliament announced on Tuesday that the amendments to the Drug Dependence Act of 2015 have passed after the third and final reading. The newly amended law authorizes patients to access the drug and it also promises to give Malta an economic boost.
The new law’s provisions and restrictions
The new law outlines that doctors can prescribe medical cannabis to patients who are suffering from any of these specified conditions: chronic pain, side effects of chemotherapy, and spasticity in multiple sclerosis.
To use medical cannabis, patients first need to obtain a card that shows they have been granted permission by the Superintendent of Public Health. They also need to get the approval of the Licensing Authority for the drug they requested. Those who have cards can only use cannabis-derived products that come in non-smoking forms.
To summarize, the new law:
- does not allow smoking products
- permits all licensed doctors to prescribe the drug
- stipulates that everything should have the approval of the Superintendent of Health
- allows the prescription of medical cannabis only after all alternative treatments have been exhausted
- requires that all preparations of medical cannabis must be made in accordance with Good Manufacturing Practice and in compliance of the Medicines Act.
Prior to the bill’s final approval, only artificial medical cannabis extracts or synthetic products would have been allowed. However, the Malta Cannabis Social Club announced in a Facebook post that “all forms of medical cannabis” is going to be available, including the raw cannabis plant, which can be brewed in tea or vaporized.
Malta’s cannabis lobby group ReLeaf had previously criticized the bill and said that all the restrictions would only force patients to run to the black market.
What cannabis advocates have to say
After the recent announcement, ReLeaf said that they welcome the change. But the group still emphasized that there are still many improvements and clarifications to be made.
In a press release, ReLeaf pointed out that one of the issues of the new law is the very limited list of eligible medical conditions. The group said that conditions like epilepsy and glaucoma are still not recognized by the government.
The organization also urged the Maltese government to keep the price down so the products are accessible to all those who need them. They also expressed the need to make a clear differentiation between the two most common compounds found in cannabis – cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – and the need to set up accurate labeling standards.
Medical cannabis production
Malta has applied to import 15 kilograms of cannabis for medical purposes.
The Maltese government also announced that The Malta Enterprise, which is the country’s economic development agency and the one in charge of attracting new foreign investments and of facilitating existing operations, has already approved five projects related to medical cannabis production. These new projects have a €30-million combined capital investment.
Three of these projects are spearheaded by Canadian companies, one by an Australian firm, and the other one by an Israeli. The companies involved were not named. Furthermore, these production projects are expected to generate around 185 new jobs.
According to Minister for the Economy Chris Cardona, the new legislation continues to draw strong interest from foreign investors. He also said that other applications for investment in the country were being considered by the government.
Additionally, the Production of Cannabis for Medicinal Use Bill is also in the works. This bill seeks to permit local cannabis producers to supply the domestic medical cannabis market.