Malta & Medical Cannabis: Legalisation & Regulation
As Malta puts its best foot forward to establish itself as the Medical Cannabis Capital of Europe, Parliament enacted the Production of Cannabis for Medicinal and Research Purposes Act, which Parliamentary Secretary Dr Deo Debattista described as “once again place[s] our citizens’ health and dignity top of the agenda”.
The Act allows entities holding the necessary license by The Medicines Authority to cultivate, import, process and produce cannabis intended for medical and research purposes under a controlled and supervised environment, provided they comply with all necessary regulations. In fact, the Malta Medicines Authority has also issued general guidelines to the industry, to expand on the Act and lay down best practices.
An approval/authorisation from the Medicines Authority may only be granted where the intended use of cannabis and/or products deriving therefrom is for medicinal and/or research purposes only. Furthermore, cultivation that does not form an integral part of a production process intended for production of products for medicinal and/or research purposes is expressly prohibited.
It is worth pointing out here that cultivating or importing/trafficking cannabis for recreational use is a crime punishable with imprisonment in Malta, yet the regulation of the production of cannabis for medicinal purposes has generally been welcomed. Companies applying for a license to grow and/or process cannabis for medical and/or research purposes will need to employ manpower and resources, boosting the Maltese economy. Similarly, the export of and taxes on this commodity can bring a considerable amount of income to the country.
As of May 2019, a preliminary agreement to establish a laboratory of excellence in Malta to test cannabis medical products was signed between Malta Enterprise and the prestigious Italian University of La Sapienza. Members of Parliament and Malta's Minister for the Economy, Investment and Small Business, Dr Chris Cardona said that 17 companies have been approved by Malta Enterprise to produce cannabis medical products, and that these regulatory changes will help make Malta the fastest growing economy in the EU in 2019.
The Medicines Authority is currently working to establish an Academy on Regulatory Sciences to strengthen the emphasis on the production of high-quality products, including medicinal cannabis products, and in November 2018, Malta hosted the first-ever edition of the Medical Cannabis World Forum; a conference that featured industry leaders, academics, and researchers who are experts in the medical cannabis field. It would seem that while still rather niche, the industry is here to stay. In fact, the forum is set to be hosted in Malta once again in November 2019, and the number of attendees is expected to be greater than last year.
About the Author
The article has been authored by Dr Ursula Farrugia, Advocate at CSB Legal, who specialises in Company Law, Financial Services, Compliance & AML and the Fintech Industry.