The cannabis authority has received 26 applications from potential cannabis clubs requesting a licence to sell home-grown marijuana, according to Leonid McKay who heads the Authority for the Responsible Use of Cannabis.
“Let me make this clear. Just because we have 26 applications, it does not mean we will be granting 26 licences. There will be a rigorous vetting process,” McKay said on Thursday.
He was not in a position to give a date when the first licences will start being issued due to the detailed vetting process involved.
McKay and Parliamentary Secretary for Reforms and Equality Rebecca Buttigieg were addressing a press conference held to launch new guidelines on the responsible use of cannabis. The guidelines, which can be accessed on the authority’s website, seek to increase awareness about the role of harm reduction, an important part of the authority’s mandate.
Cannabis clubs – dubbed Cannabis Harm Reduction Associations – started applying to sell home-grown marijuana from February 28. The associations are the only way one can legally buy the drug, which was legalised in December 2021.
The clubs must be non-profit and can only sell their own product, meaning that only seeds can be imported from abroad. This means that cannabis legally sold in Malta must be grown in the country.
Cannabis clubs must have a maximum of 500 members and cannot be within 250 metres of a school or youth centre. They are also barred from advertising themselves and cannot include the word 'cannabis' or incite the use of cannabis.
Applicants must pay a registration fee of €1,000 and the license fee starts at €8,750 for the first 50 members. Cannabis sold must include a label that discourages cannabis use, and have details of the plant used.
Anyone over 18 can join a club. However, there is a cap on the level of THC - the cannabis compound that gets people high - for anyone under the age of 21. A person can only join one organisation.
All revenue must be reinvested in the organisation or in salaries. Associations will also contribute a portion of their sales to a harm reduction fund.
McKay stressed that the safest way to use cannabis was not to use cannabis.
“Instead of saying 'no', we are giving information on what can cause harm and how to reduce risks. But if a person chooses to consume cannabis it is important to be aware of risks and use it responsibly," he said.
He stressed that the aim was not to encourage people to use cannabis but to see a shift in existing users who buy from illegal sources to them getting their cannabis from regulated associations.
According to the 2022 European Drug Report, cannabis remains the most widely consumed illicit substance. Prolonged use has been associated with increased risks of possible physical and mental health effects. Mental health repercussions may include mood changes, impaired attention and short-term memory, panic attacks, paranoid thoughts and hallucinations. Physical effects include dizziness, changes in pulse rate and blood pressure, fatigue, impacted motor skills and impaired driving ability.
- Cannabis use should be delayed to late adolescence;
- People who use cannabis should use low potency products;
- Avoid frequent or intensive use of cannabis;
- Access legal products that are quality controlled;
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women, or anyone seeking to have a child, should avoid use;
- Avoid taking cannabis with other substances including tobacco.