Maltese lawmakers approved a landmark bill that decriminalizes some quantities of recreational cannabis, regulates home cultivation and permits nonprofit cannabis clubs in the European Union country.
The island nation’s president, George Vella, is expected to sign the bill in the coming days.
The new law will make Malta the first European Union (EU) country to legalize certain quantities of adult-use cannabis for personal use.
But the measure stops short of regulating the sale of recreational cannabis to consumers for profit, meaning those transactions, where they occur, will remain in the underground market and out of reach for legal businesses – and out of sight for regulators.
Instead, nonprofit cannabis clubs will be allowed, paving the way for cultivation and possession for distribution among members – provided the organizations are capped at 500 people and follow regulatory guidelines.
Cultivation of up to four plants per household will also be permitted, and up to 50 grams of dried cannabis will be allowed to be stored at home for personal use.
No THC limit has been established.
Some European countries are taking steps to end cannabis prohibition to various degrees, but so far none have gone so far as to established meaningful regulated markets for the drug.
Luxembourg recently backpedaled on a previous commitment to create a fully regulated recreational marijuana market modelled after Canada’s.
The country now plans to allow home cultivation of up to four plants for personal use. Retail will not be permitted.
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The new German government has agreed to regulate the distribution and sale of recreational cannabis.
However, details on the pending German initiative are few and far between.
Experts warn executives not to overestimate the pace of legal and regulatory development in Europe.
Since businesses can operate only within the boundaries of a jurisdiction’s regulations and laws, a prudent approach is needed, they say.
Some European countries have launched, or are preparing to start, medical pilot programs. Those often come with limited potential for commercialization.
No commercial objectives
Malta’s law has no commercial objectives.
Instead, it aims to:
- Establish the Authority on the Responsible Use of Cannabis to regulate “cannabis clubs” and promote educational campaigns on the responsible use of cannabis.
- Achieve “limited decriminalization” of certain cannabis-related activities “to allow for a balance between individual freedom in the limited and responsible personal use of cannabis.”
The law also effectively legalizes hemp.
Personal possession of cannabis will be capped at 7 grams in public.
“What is being done aims at the limited decriminalization of the responsible use of cannabis and the creation of regulated sources from where cannabis and its seeds can be acquired,” according to a government document that outlines the scope of the law.
The law establishes various fines.
Anyone caught with 7-28 grams could be fined from 50 euros ($56) to 100 euros.
Consuming adult-use cannabis in public would result in a fine of 235 euros.
Consumption in the presence of anyone younger than 18 could result in a fine of 300 euros to 500 euros, whether the consumption happened in public or private.
Clubs will be required to obtain a permit from the cannabis regulator before commencing operations. The clubs will be allowed to distribute no more than 20 unsterilized seeds per month to members in sealed packets.
The law contains a provision allowing anyone with a criminal record to apply to have it expunged.
Matt Lamers can be reached at email@example.com.