Following in Malta’s footsteps

‘The Guardian’ notes that the Maltese approach to cannabis has influenced recent legislative changes in countries such as Germany.

Malta has positioned itself as a leader in the European Union regarding cannabis reform, adopting a unique approach that differentiates it from other countries. Malta’s strategy involves a non-commercial home-grow and cannabis association model, that aims to reduce harm and prevent the potential risks associated with the commercialisation of cannabis, which are evident in industries like alcohol.

British daily newspaper The Guardian notes that this Maltese approach has influenced recent legislative changes in countries such as Germany. Initially, Germany planned to create a regulated commercial cannabis market, similar to Canada’s model, with expectations of significant job creation and tax revenue. However, due to constraints related to UN drug conventions and EU law, Germany shifted towards a model that focuses on allowing legal access through home growing and not-for-profit associations. This shift mirrors Malta’s model and has been seen in other EU countries like the Czech Republic and Luxembourg, that have also adjusted their cannabis reform plans accordingly.

Malta’s model is primarily focused on harm reduction, aiming to ensure controlled access to cannabis without the primary motive being profit. This contrasts with the intentions of countries like Germany, which view their current models as interim solutions before potentially moving towards commercial retail in the future.

Malta’s leadership in adopting a harm-reduction model for cannabis reform underscores the potential for alternative drug policies that prioritise public health over commercial interests. As discussions on cannabis legislation evolve in the EU and beyond, Malta’s approach provides a notable example of how countries can implement progressive drug policies that aim to balance legal access, public health, and adherence to international law.

What the critics say

Local criticism is centred around the worry that the reform could lead to increased cannabis use, especially among youth, potentially harming mental health. Whilst some raise doubts about the authorities’ ability to enforce the new cannabis regulations effectively, others argue the reform might not significantly impact reducing drug trafficking and could inadvertently support the black market. There’s also concern that normalising cannabis use could lead to broader social and cultural shifts, potentially affecting family life and workplace productivity. Critics also question whether the reform aligns with international drug control treaties and how it might affect Malta’s global standing.

However, it’s important to note that this criticism does not represent a unanimous national stance. The government and supporters of the reform argue that it is designed with harm reduction in mind, aiming to provide a regulated framework that mitigates the risks associated with cannabis use while addressing the realities of existing consumption patterns. They also emphasise the importance of accompanying the reform with prevention programmes to inform the public about the risks of cannabis use.

Germany’s new law comes into force today, 1st April. These recent developments not only validate Malta’s stance, but prove that the influence of Malta’s reform model extends beyond its borders, offering insights for other countries that are exploring ways to update their cannabis policies. As public support for cannabis legalisation grows in Europe, Malta’s experience serves as a reference point for developing drug policies that are both effective and conscientious.

On the same subject: Regulating it right ▪️ War on drugs: the unintended toll ▪️ Cannabis Harm Reduction Associations – why and how?

Photo: Reuters

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