When you think of the small island of Malta, poised off the coast of Sicily, you probably picture gorgeous water and stunning coastlines. Tourism isn’t all that Malta has to offer, however—the tiny European Union country could soon become a powerhouse of the medical marijuana industry.
Malta’s Economy Minister, Chris Cardona, recently admitted that three foreign companies were provided letters of intent by Malta Enterprise—the first step to producing medicinal cannabis in Malta—and three more businesses have expressed interest as well. It’s a bold move, and only the beginning. Malta may be positioning itself as a leading cannabis manufacturer and supplier for the entire EU.
It’s all thanks to the Production of Cannabis for Medicinal Use Act, which would allow dried cannabis, cannabis oil, seeds and derivatives to be produced and sold. The bill has passed its second reading and is in committee review, with the final vote expected shortly.
Under the bill, any company wishing to enter the marijuana market would have to provide a letter of intent and undergo preliminary approval. From there, they would be issued a license by the Medicines Authority, which will ultimately be responsible for regulating the industry. The bill would also allow all doctors accredited by the Maltese Medical Council to prescribe medical cannabis.
Beyond allowing manufacturing, the new marijuana bill also opens the possibility for companies to carry out research, including clinical trials. This gives Malta a leg up when it comes to attracting cannabis businesses, according to Antonio Costanzo, Head of International Development at Nuuvera, a medical cannabis producer.
As Costanzo told MaltaToday, “Not all countries have done this, and we think that is a mistake because this is a product that we need to learn more about.”
As for what the new bill could mean for Malta’s cannabis export market, there’s enormous potential. As part of the EU, Malta already has many trading advantages. And the new bill will allow for multiple key assets: setting strict manufacturing standards for pharmaceuticals, attracting global players, and creating a robust industry.
Deepak Anand, Vice President of Government Relations at Cannabis Compliance, shared on MaltaToday that “with the changes proposed by the Maltese Prime Minister and forward-thinking Cabinet members . . . regulations have been amended to allow for Malta to become a world leader in medical cannabis processing and manufacturing.” Anand continued, stating, “I might argue this is a second coming of the Maltese pharmaceutical industry that boomed significantly just after Malta became part of the EU, and the advantage Maltese companies had due to the lack of patent registrations by big pharma in the early 1990s.”
And with the European medical cannabis market expected to be worth an estimated $35.7 billion a year, according to the European Medicines Agency Report, there’s no telling what Malta could achieve with this new industry.