Two cannabis associations have become the first to be granted a licence to operate, meaning they can legally grow and sell the drug.

KDD Society and Ta’ Zelli were granted the licences this month.

Leonid McKay, head of the Authority for the Responsible Use of Cannabis told a news conference on Monday that cannabis will be tested by the authority before being sold to members of the association.

He said there are ongoing discussions about the pricing structure but said the plan was not to have prices capped.  

“It will be comparable to the illegal market,” he said, as prices will aim to be competitive.

Four other associations have an in-principle licence, meaning they are close to being allowed to operate. Parliamentary Secretary Rebecca Buttigieg described the announcement as “historic”.

Industry regulators believe that the associations will be able to begin selling by the first quarter of 2024.

Not for tourists

Apart from paying for their cannabis, members will have to pay a small fee to be part of the association following an introductory interview.

At the interview, applicants will be queried about their cannabis use but will also be informed about how they can contribute to the community alongside informing them of their responsibilities as a prospective member.

These services will only be available to residents, McKay said.

“We will not be providing a market to tourists,” he said, as associations aim to regulate drug use rather than promote it.

Donation to drug awareness

The associations, which are of varying sizes but will average around the 250-member mark, will be non-profit and will be forced to donate a certain amount 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.

“These two licenses show us that the non-profit model can really work,” McKay said, noting Malta’s “unique” model which has become a global pioneer for the sector.

It is a point of pride that other countries, such as Germany, are looking to Malta’s model as a “pioneer” for their own legislation, Buttigieg added.

In December 2021, Malta became the first European country to legalise recreational cannabis. The allows users to carry up to 7g of the substance on them without fear of prosecution, to grow four plants at home and to buy limited amounts of cannabis from associations. 

In August, the German government approved a draft law legalising the purchase and possession of small amounts of cannabis for recreational use.

“We are not promoting the abuse of drugs,” Buttigieg emphasised, as many elements of the reform seek to curb drug abuse through safe use and regulation.

Wanting to avoid the realities of the alcohol and tobacco industries, Buttigieg said that cannabis will not be marketed in the same way.

Through a regulated industry, certain dangers such as cannabis laced with unwanted chemicals can be avoided, she continued, while people’s criminal records will not be tarnished by a recreational action.

“We are proud that we have not left a situation where people can have damaged or dirty criminal records simply for smoking a joint,” Buttigieg said.

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