Malta’s cannabis rush could be set to continue as the government eyes up a new sector: animals.

Medical cannabis was legalised in March and Malta Enterprise has so far licensed five foreign operators to manufacture cannabis products, for a total initial investment of €30 million.

Malta Enterprise CEO Mario Galea said on Monday the government agency was now actively looking into regulating cannabis for veterinary purposes, allowing companies to manufacture medical cannabis and cannabis-related products for animals, as well as clinical testing services.

Mr Galea added that Malta Enterprise was also exploring the regulations surrounding traditional veterinary pharmaceuticals, which he said remained lacking in Europe – although they are regulated by the European Medicines Agency – and where Malta could take the lead in attracting foreign investment.

Mr Galea was speaking during the presentation of Malta Enterprise’s annual report for 2017.

According to the report, the agency approved a total of 128 projects by foreign and Maltese investors in 2017, which over the next three years are expected to create an investment of €249 million and 2,251 new jobs.

The projects included 19 foreign ‘greenfield’ projects – that is, involving the building of new facilities – many of which, Mr Galea said, were in new sectors which would allow the economy to diversify and ensure high-quality jobs in new niche areas.

The fastest growing sector in 2017, according to the report, was professional, scientific and technical activities, which grew by 21 per cent over the previous year in terms of its contribution to economic growth, equivalent to €265 million in gross value added.

It was followed by the quarrying, electricity supply and waste management sector, which grew by more than 10 per cent.

Economy minister Chris Cardona hailed the country’s economic performance last year, highlighting the GDP growth of 6.7 per cent, the third highest in the EU. He attributed the growth to the government’s speed in tapping into new markets and providing the necessary legislation and incentives.

Dr Cardona also dismissed as “nonsense” claims by the Opposition that the growth was due to increase in population, which he said was not based on any economic theory.

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