Cannabis plant

Malta becomes first European country to legalise recreational use of cannabis

Malta becomes first European country to legalise recreational use of cannabis

Luxembourg and Germany are expected to follow the example early next year

The Maltese Parliament has approved the bill on the responsible use of cannabis, the news network TVM reported. This makes the island nation the first country in Europe to legalise the personal use of the soft drug and the cultivation of the eponymous psychoactive plant for recreational purposes.

Provisions of the law

The law permits persons over 18 years of age to grow 4 plants at home and carry up to 7 grams of cannabis for personal use. It also allows non-profit groups of up to 500 people to cultivate the plant for members.

Penalties for possession of larger quantities of the drug have been dampened too. Adults caught with between 8 and 28 grams will face a tribunal rather than a court, as well as a EUR 100 fine. Smoking pot in public places remains illegal and punishable with a EUR 235 fine, while those who smoke in front of children will be fined between EUR 300 and 500.

Political divide

The bill passed yesterday with all of the 36 Labour votes, while the 27 deputies of the opposition Nationalist Party (PN) voted against it. PN leader Bernard Grech initially supported the legislation but, in a reversal from last October, took a stand against it, arguing that the move would "only lead to the strengthening of the illegal market, with organised crime taking advantage."

Now, the law will only need the ceremonial signature of Maltese President George Vella, but the bill’s opponents, including the centre-right opposition, medical associations and the Church, have strongly called on him to not sign it.

Defending the legislation, Equality Minister, Owen Bonnici, described it as a "historic" move which would curb drug trafficking by ensuring safe and regularised access for small-time cannabis users who would no longer be treated as criminals. Proponents of the bill in parliament are also eying the establishment of a body responsible for shaping the national cannabis policy together with the government.

Where does the EU stand on cannabis use?

Luxembourg and Germany have already announced similar plans for a legally regulated cannabis market. Germany’s new coalition parties are in accord regarding the use of cannabis for recreational purposes and its sale from licensed vendors.

In the Netherlands, cannabis is formally illegal but its consumption is tolerated for personal use and permitted in cafeterias. The Czech Republic and Portugal have decriminalized cannabis for personal use.

Medical marijuana has been legalized in Austria, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Romania, and Slovenia.



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