Malta to legalise cannabis for personal use

Stephen Andrews
14 Dec 2021

The smallest member state of the EU is set to become the first country in Europe to legalise homegrowing and possession of cannabis for personal use within this week! More European countries are likely to follow suit with cannabis reform in 2022. Malta's cannabis reform follows after EU founding member Luxembourg revealed details on its own decriminalisation efforts in October.

Under the new Maltese law, those aged 18 and above will be allowed to possess up to seven grams of marijuana. The law also permits homegrowing up to four cannabis plants, with up to 50g of dried flower allowed to be stored.

The Maltese parliament is voting on the new legislation on Tuesday (Dec 14), after which the law will be signed by the president. 

The legalisation process in Malta started earlier this year. The country's Ministry for equality, research and innovation introduced a bill to reform legislation on cannabis in October 2021. The bill reflects the government's election manifesto as of 2017, which vowed to introduce a debate on the recreational use of cannabis. In March 2021, the government issued a white paper outlining its vision on cannabis policy.

The Maltese law aims to decriminalise the responsible use of pot and protect populations from substance abuse. Below are some more changes of how the new legislation is imagined to function:

  • Possession of up to 28 grams will be punishable with a fine of €50-€100, however, without a criminal record. 
  • Youths aged under 18 found in possession will not be arrested but rather sent to a commission for justice for the recommendation of a care plan. 
  • Adults who smoke pot in front of a child face fines of up to €500.
  • Homegrowing will be legal for personal use, as will cultivation in non-profit cannabis clubs that can distribute among members, similarly to how some organisations are tolerated in the Netherlands and Spain. 
  • Consumption in public is not allowed unless the person has an authorisation citing medical reasons. 
  • Criminal records of people found guilty of possession of cannabis for personal use are to be expunged. 

By enforcing a law this month, Malta will outpace Luxembourg, one of the founding members of the EU, whose government also presented a decriminalisation law in October. 

Broader cannabis reform is anticipated to take place around Europe in 2022. Most notably, Germany's new government has announced plans it will introduce a regulated cannabis market, while Italy scheduled a referendum to decide on the matter. The Netherlands and Switzerland may also follow suit with upgrading legislations in favour of legal cannabis markets.

Outside Europe, legal cannabis markets have been established in Canada, Mexico, and 18 US states. 

In the UK, PM Boris Johnson has recently been likened to Richard Nixon, as his government appears to maintain a "war on drugs" approach. 

Perhaps most promise for actual cannabis reform in the UK has so far come from the Mayor of London. Sadiq Khan who was re-elected to office earlier this year spoke about cannabis decriminalisation during his official election campaign. 

Unfortunately, the Home Office were quick to clarify that controlled drugs fall in the domain of the UK Government and that Boris Johnson "has absolutely no intention of legalising cannabis which is a harmful substance."

The wave of setting up legal cannabis markets in Europe follows a decision last year by the United Nations to remove cannabis from a listing of drugs considered potentially addictive and dangerous.

Stephen Andrews