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Malta: Registration for cannabis licenses starts February 28



Photo: DR

It's been almost a year since Malta passed legislation to regulate adult use of cannabis, allowing the possession of up to 7 grams per person and the cultivation of up to 4 plants per household. However, progress in implementing the new regulations has been slow, with some setbacks along the way. Meanwhile, the government has confirmed that non-profit organizations will be able to register for a license to grow and sell cannabis to the public from 28 February 2023. 

A major setback was the resignation of Mariella Dimech, Executive President of the Authority for the Responsible Use of Cannabis (ARUC). Dimech, a psychotherapist with over 21 years of experience in addressing harm reduction and addiction issues, was initially appointed as Executive Chair of ARUC. However, in November 2021, Dimech was abruptly dismissed from her position, with little to no information about what happened. In a statement, she cited the lack of a functional role, staffing, budget and a political strategy that she did not agree with. 

Following Dimech's departure, Lenoid McKay, CEO of the Housing Authority, was appointed Executive Chairman of the ARUC. This appointment was met with criticism from those who had fought for cannabis reform, as McKay and the organization he previously led, Caritas Malta, had campaigned against the reform of cannabis laws in Malta. The Maltese NGO Releaf Malta also expressed deep concern at the time, saying that the appointment was a “direct insult to the spirit of the law” and that Caritas had “raised a demonic crusade against any form of legislative changes that would enhance the responsible use of cannabis”. . 

In February 2022, it was announced that licensing applications for cannabis associations would open. It was recently confirmed that non-profit organizations will be able to register for a license to grow and sell cannabis to the public from February 28, 2023. 

These associations will be responsible for the entire process, from “seed to sale”, with a main focus on harm reduction issues. ARUC is currently working on defining standards for product packaging, labeling and quality control.  

To ensure that the requirements of cannabis users on the island are reflected in the law, ARUC also promised to hold monthly meetings with the NGOs representing them, as well as create and also have several departments ranging from research, licensing, enforcement and compliance to ensure that associations are conducting their business in accordance with the law. 

The fact that these associations are not commercial companies was highlighted with great focus during the announcement of this new development, as well as the importance of involvement of stakeholders, NGOs and consumers themselves. This represents a positive step towards a regulated framework for cannabis in Malta, and also adds some pressure for other European countries to reform their approach to cannabis. 


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