You are here
Home > News > Malta Becomes First in the EU to Legalize Recreational Cannabis Use

Malta Becomes First in the EU to Legalize Recreational Cannabis Use

As a signal that Europe is at an important turning point, Malta (mediterranean island) became the first European Union country to allow recreational cannabis possession and cultivation. Luxembourg had similar plans about a year ago. But, at least for the moment, it will not allow seeds to be sold publicly. 

The President must sign the bill. However, this is just a small point. In the words of the lawmaker who introduced the legislation into the Maltese Parliament, Owen Bonnici, this is in fact a “ground-breaking” moment. This is also the first time that a European legislative body has passed recreational cannabis reform at a national level. 

The Dutch, despite a stronger federal role in industry regulation in Holland have not made it this far. Switzerland is not part of the EU.  Portugal and Germany have both indicated that they are ready to make progress, but this is not the case. Luxembourg emerged from the shadows to establish a seed market, however.

It is likely, given these announcements’ timing, that the Maltese market and Luxembourgian one will evolve along very similar timelines.

Only difference is, in Malta, there’s no grey area. Cannabis specific outlets will be allowed to operate—albeit at a suitable distance from schools and youth centers.

This will allow consumers to take seven grams to public places, to grow four plants or to keep 50 grams at home.

The European Recreational Cannabis Market:

It was only a matter time. In the past months, recreational cannabis reform has been on the top of the docket all over Europe—even if not moving quite so quickly as in Malta. Most significantly, the new coalition government in Germany, Europe’s largest economy, has announced plans to legalize recreational use as early as next year. 

With limited trials, Switzerland and Luxembourg are moving ahead. Portugal may also follow the example of Luxembourg and Switzerland. Italy, which has over half a billion signatures this summer and is trying to push the matter forward at the legislative stage, seems also close.

This is a moment very similar to 2012 in the United States, if there were a parallel. Now, reform has been officially accepted by the legislature (although it is not at the state or at the sovereign levels). There could be up to five or six new states of recreational reform within two years.

What does this mean for the industry?

American investors are in a great position to establish a foothold here. Investments can cross the Atlantic, but flower and products cannot (at least not without some detours). British people are also interested in this topic. The equity markets of London, while not as rapid as that on Europe have been reforming, are still a top choice for investors looking for capital.

The flood that began this year as a trickle is set to grow in six to twelve months.

German companies, especially those that have been able to enter the medical sector with an operating distribution license, are clearly ahead of their counterparts in the region. This is simply due to the advantage of having an organizational head start early.

The EU level of change

While such developments are clearly exciting, don’t expect all of this to be smooth sailing. The industry must overcome many obstacles before it can function more smoothly. Although individual countries may move towards recreational marijuana, this issue must be dealt with at the regional level. This has only happened with CBD, which has yet to be adopted in many countries.

This will be an issue in (at least) the cross-border trade of cannabis—and for that reason, EU GMP is likely to play a much larger role, at least at first. German pharmaceutical specialty distributors will also have a clear advantage in the coming market—and not just in one country, but across the region.

But, the real change in cannabis is coming. This is what happened first in Malta.

And while it may still not make it into the top 10 most significant events in Maltese history, this development is certainly a marker of great change—and further, not limited to just this one, small European island.