The president of Malta’s first fully operational cannabis association has reported an enthusiastic reaction from members in the first days of opening.

KDD Society in Attard opened its doors on Saturday and within the first two days had attracted more than 150 members, according to its president Kenneth Ellul.

“The turnout was phenomenal; the support from our members has been exceptional,” he said.

Its license allows the club to have up to 250 members, meaning it is already more than half full.

“Members who came in were very excited to purchase legal and regulated cannabis," he said. "The feedback we’ve had from people was that it really feels different having access to a legal product."

“Honestly, it feels surreal. I never thought it would be possible to provide this kind of service in Malta.”

New rules on cannabis were introduced in late 2021 along with the Authority for the Responsible Use of Cannabis (ARUC), allowing for recreational use of the drug and the creation of cannabis associations such as KDD Society.

It took over a year for things to get moving, however, following a lull that culminated in the sacking of former head of the authority psychotherapist Mariella Dimech.

She was replaced soon after by former Caritas director Leonid McKay who currently heads the authority. 

But last year saw efforts stepped up, with rules for cannabis associations being published in March and the first two in-principle licenses allowing the construction of growing facilities granted in August.

And on Tuesday, the ARUC announced that Malta’s first fully operational club, KDD Society, was up and running.

Only residents of Malta are allowed to join the clubs, which are officially called the Cannabis Harm Reduction Associations.

Ellul said that so far, the association counted more men among its members than women, but that the age range varied widely from 18 to 76-year-olds.

Amongst the club’s more senior members, roughly half had medical licenses to consume cannabis while the rest visited for recreational purposes, he said, but stressed the club was only there for recreational use and was not able to offer medical advice.

The association currently offers five strains of cannabis, which Ellul said range from 11% to 17% Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content.

THC is a compound found in cannabis which produces the psychoactive effect commonly referred to as feeling ‘high’.

Describing the association's current offerings as ranging from “potent to very mild,” Ellul said it planned to expand the number of cannabis strains on offer in the future and extend them to those containing both THC and its sister compound CBD.

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is the second most prevalent compound found in cannabis which, unlike THC, is not psychoactive. It is commonly used for its reported medicinal properties.

In October, Ellul said KDD Society was growing around 200 plants, which have now been harvested and batch tested by the Authority for the Responsible Use of Cannabis for sale to the association’s members.

He and his two colleagues have already started growing a new batch of plants but expect the current stock to last until then.

Cannabis association members are legally allowed to buy up to seven grams of cannabis flower per day, with a maximum of 50 grams in one month.

Ellul said the association’s containers can contain up to seven grams at a time, allowing users flexibility about how much they buy at a time, but added they mainly pre-packed containers of set amounts, with larger amounts such as seven grams available on request.

According to the  Authority for the Responsible Use of Cannabis (ARUC), there are six clubs with an operating permit. 

They must be non-profit and donate a proportion of their income to drug awareness.

Out of their total income, five per cent will have to be given as a “harm reduction” contribution to the ARUC while a further 10 per cent of their surplus will go towards educational initiatives that aim to reduce drug use or other sustainable projects.

The new law has not been without its critics, with both the opposition and drug addiction organisations such as Caritas arguing it will normalise drug abuse.

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