Why Should Europe Follow Malta’s Lead on Cannabis Legalisation?

Europe Cannabis Legalisation - GCI Content Hub - Global Cannabis Intelligence

Maltese minister for equality, research and innovation explains why more countries in Europe should follow Malta’s lead on cannabis legalisation.

Maltese Minister Owen Bonnici, who is responsible for the law making Malta the first European country to legalise cannabis, says that other European states should follow suit.

Malta legalised personal use of cannabis on December 14, 2021. The new law permits users to carry seven grams of the plant and store up to 50 grams at home.

Bonnici, formerly justice minister and now minister for equality, research and innovation explains in conversation with Euronews that Malta’s new cannabis rules serve as a model for how to end the unnecessary prosecution of cannabis users and tackle organised crime.

Malta’s cannabis reform aims to prevent recreational and medical cannabis users from being forced into the criminal justice system for possession of small amounts of the plant. Bonnici believes that the previously hard-fisted approach was disproportionate, causing unnecessary harm and suffering to cannabis users leading exemplary lives.

By allowing users and, eventually, non-profit organisations to grow and distribute the plant to users via associations, Malta is creating a safe and regulated avenue to source cannabis which takes users away from the illicit market and redistributes the cannabis economy out of the hands of criminal gangs.

Malta’s reform on cannabis policy exemplifies the rationale that the criminalisation of cannabis actually perpetuates the harm caused by the drug, by unnecessarily implicating otherwise law-abiding individuals in the criminal justice system, often at the cost of their jobs or livelihoods.

Will other European states legalise cannabis?

While the Netherlands is well known for a relaxed attitude towards cannabis use, the plant is still illegal to possess and sell. The ‘coffee shops’ which are licensed to sell it operate under a ‘tolerance policy,’ under which recreational use is accepted within reason.

Various European states, including Italy, Spain, Belgium and Ireland have changed their laws to prevent individuals found with small amounts of cannabis from facing jail time. However, in other European countries, including the United Kingdom, France and Austria, minor cannabis possession can be punishable by prison sentences.

Although German Chancellor Olog Scholz is in favour of legalisation, the country’s new coalition government has not established a time frame for the reforms.

In countries such as Portugal, where cannabis has been decriminalised – meaning possession is not an arrestable offence – users still need to obtain cannabis from the illicit market.

The cannabis reform laws in Malta have been criticised by religious groups and NGOs. It was also opposed by the current labour government’s opposing Nationalist Party (PN), although the party’s leader, Bernard Grech, has announced that – if elected – he will not seek to repeal the law.

To explore additional cannabis content, click here.

Previous articleScotland Approves Cannabis Based Medicine for Seizures Caused by Rare Genetic Condition
Next articleAustralian Researchers Investigate Medical Cannabis to Tackle Obesity Epidemic