After months of debate, medical cannabis was legalized by lawmakers in Malta, an archipelago located off the southern coast of Italy. On a third and final reading of the legislation, the amendment to Malta’s Drug Dependence Act was passed on March 6th by parliament and signed into law by President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca on March 9th.
While the country decriminalized cannabis in 2015, restrictions and other bureaucratic hurdles made it nearly impossible to obtain and use a medical prescription for cannabis. At Medicine Man Technologies, we’re optimistic that medical cannabis in Malta is finally moving in the right direction.
What we know thus far is that patients first need to apply for a control card and receive approval from Malta’s Superintendent of Public Health before seeking a doctor’s prescription. The new law also allows general practitioners, not just government-approved specialists such as oncologists, to then prescribe medical cannabis for their patients.
The New Cannabis Law is Far from Perfect
While we always applaud progress, there are areas where we and Maltese advocates would like to see improvements made. First, in a departure from similar programs, only three conditions are eligible to be treated with medical cannabis: chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, and the side effects of chemotherapy.
Here are a few more areas of contention:
- It is still illegal to consume medical cannabis in smokable forms
- Patients will not be allowed to cultivate plants for personal use
- Costs will not be covered by Malta’s public healthcare system
Additionally, Maltese doctors are yet to be thoroughly educated on evidence-based research showing the medicinal properties of cannabis, much less how to administer it to their patients. And according to an article from ReLeaf Malta, a cannabis advocacy group, the first networking meeting between medical practitioners and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Health did nothing to improve the situation for medical cannabis in Malta:
“Regrettably, Prof. Seracin Inglot warned doctors of the dangers of using cannabis and called on them to refrain from using it. He also informed doctors that in spite of the approval needed by the Medicines Authority for the patients to start using cannabis, the responsibility falls on the doctor. Prof. Seracin Inglot told members present to use common sense above everything else and to not trust cannabis.”
As our team at Medicine Man Technologies has seen time and again, it’s not just about passing laws but educating the public, the medical community, as well as the government. All stakeholders need to have the information they need to advocate for patients and establish a working medical cannabis system.
What’s Next for Medical Cannabis in Malta
Beyond patient laws for medical cannabis in Malta, a separate bill to regulate the system and medical cannabis products is now being discussed by Malta’s Parliament. It will cover licensing and other rules for:
- Cultivation, importation or processing of cannabis; and/or
- Production of any products intended for medicinal use deriving from or resulting from the use of cannabis; and/or
- Trade in cannabis and, or any preparations intended for medicinal use as deriving from cannabis.
While the bill could potentially be passed by summer, five medical cannabis production projects have already been given the green light. However, the companies involved are not Maltese. In the group are three Canadian enterprises along with one Australian and one Israeli company. Together, their operations should create around 185 new jobs which will certainly help the country’s economy.
Even Malta’s struggling farmers are making plans to capitalize on a legal medical cannabis industry. Over the years, their own industry has seen a drop-off and many have been looking for a way out. While many farmers in other countries switch to growing a lucrative cannabis crop, Maltese farmers are answering the call of outside cultivators looking to buy their land and establish their own operations.
Like many other medical cannabis programs, Malta is off to a decent but somewhat shaky start. Our Medicine Man Technologies experts will be keeping an eye on developments, and we certainly hope to see improvements made to better serve Maltese citizens in need.
If you want to start your own legal enterprise in the U.S. or anywhere across the globe, just get in touch with us for private consulting, as well as help with licensing, cultivating, dispensary operations and more.