The Rise of Malta in Europe’s Cannabis Market

If you’ve been keeping up to date with Europe’s cannabis market, you may have heard how certain countries are positioning themselves as key players – this would include countries like Germany, Denmark, Greece, and the Netherlands. But one country has slipped under the radar when it comes to its potential in the European cannabis industry – and that’s Malta. This is quite surprising, as Malta’s entire population is under half a million. Nonetheless, there are some very interesting reasons why this tiny island in the Mediterranean is attracting so much investment for medical cannabis.

The Legalisation of Medical Cannabis in Malta

In March last year, Malta legalised medical cannabis. Parliamentary Secretary Dr Deo Debattista said that the legislative move “once again places our citizens’ health and dignity top of the agenda”. The Production of Cannabis for Medicinal and Research Purposes Act, published a month after legalisation, allows businesses to cultivate, import, process, and produce medical cannabis under certain regulations.

Malta Has High Ambitions for its Cannabis Market

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. Malta used the opportunity to detail its ambitions to become the medical cannabis capital of Europe.

Debattista, who delivered a presentation at the event, stated that Malta is an attractive player in Europe’s medical cannabis market due to its reputation for “patient-centric work in the regulation of medicines – be it assessments, inspections, pharmacovigilance, or other advanced scientific contributions.”

Quality is a Top Priority for Malta

Another reason that Malta is rising as a key player in the industry is that it is placing an extremely high importance on safe, high-quality medical products. Debattista noted that the Medicines Authority is “engaging pertinent experts”, adding that the “quality of medicinal cannabis preparations is in effect the preliminary concern we wanted to address.”

Debattista also highlighted that Malta would not be placing restrictions on percentages of THC and CBD in cannabis products like other countries, including Switzerland, where legal cannabis must contain less than 1% THC. The Parliamentary Secretary argues that these concentrations are not for the Maltese government to define. After all, a variety of concentrations can ensure that patients – who have different needs – can obtain products that offer them the most effective relief.

Debattista added that he was aware of the issue of cannabis products becoming contaminated, which could jeopardise patients’ health. As The Stop and Chat previously reported, cannabis contaminated with a type of fungi is potentially life-threatening for immunosuppressed patients.

Protecting the Interests of Patients

Debattista is a doctor as well as a politician. And his medical background has informed his passionate enterprise of making Malta a hub for medical cannabis. At the conference, he spoke of not letting bureaucracy or poor regulations get in the way of delivering the best outcomes for patients.

Medical cannabis can help treat a variety of medical conditions when no other form of medication provides adequate relief. But in order to maximise the potential of cannabis for patients, governments need to have appropriate regulations that open up opportunities for research, as well as ensure that patients can use safe, effective products that are affordable and easily accessible.  

Malta Attracts Increasing Investment

As The Stop and Chat reported, many American and Canadian cannabis companies have their eyes set on Malta as a strategic country for investment. But Malta has also attracted investment from a diverse range of countries, including Australia, India, and Israel. So far, Malta has received investment from the following medical cannabis partner companies: MGC Pharma, Columbia Care, Alvit LCS Pharma, Aurora, Wayland, Affinity, and Aphria. The Maltese government is committed to ensuring that only the most reputable and successful cannabis companies can set up shop in the country.  

Chris Cordona, Malta’s Minister for the Economy, Investment and Small Business, also spoke at the Medical Cannabis World Forum in November. He explained that Malta is a strong country for investment due to the recent drastic growth in the economy. He said:

“In five years, we have turned around the course of this country and changed the political narrative of Malta. We performed an economic miracle without resorting to austerity measures. We … cut taxes [and] increased the income of those on the lower rungs through targeted social measures, and, of course, our strong economic performance has been lauded over and over again by various international entities such as the European Commission, the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and a myriad of credit rating agencies.”

Real GDP growth in Malta increased by 5.4% in 2018, which is double the EU average. Cordona believes these changes will help make Malta the fastest growing economy in the EU in 2019. He added, “We want to carve out our name in this industry and shut [down] mainstream’s conceptions of medical marijuana.” Indeed, Malta’s government understands that developing an innovative and flourishing cannabis market will play a vital role in its future economic growth.