Malta, the smallest member of the European Union (EU), has legalised cannabis. This has beaten Germany marginally. Other EU members decriminalised it, most famously the Netherlands with its gedoogbeleid (tolerance policy). Malta, however, is the first to legalise it. It is expected that other EU members will follow suit in 2022. Under Boris Johnson, the United Kingdom has maintained a tough approach. He has at least now admitted that using cannabis does not lead to using harder drugs, although he claimed it puts people “in the jaws of criminality.”

The parliamentary vote took place on 14 December 2021. The Responsible Use of Cannabis bill passed by 36 votes to 27. It will become law after the president, George Vella, signs it. People can grow as many as four plants and possess 7 g (0.25 oz) in public and 50 g (1.76 oz) at home. Anyone caught with more than 7 g faces a fine of €100 (£85), rising to €235 (£200) if it’s taken in public and between €300 and €500 (£255 and £425) if in front of children. People with a criminal record for possession can apply to have it wiped out.

The opposition Nationalist Party opposed legalising cannabis on the grounds that it would “normalise and increase drug use”. Its leader, Bernard Grech, originally supported the law but later reversed his position. He then declared it would “only lead to the strengthening of the illegal market, with organised crime taking advantage.” The Equality, Research and Innovation Minister, Owen Bonnici, stated that it would mean an end to “treating people who are not criminals like criminals.”

Rather than coffee shops, the Maltese way of legalising cannabis will be non-profit cannabis clubs limited to 500 members who can purchase 7 g a time and a maximum of 50 g a month. These clubs will not be closer than 250 metres (273 yards) to a school or youth centre. A new public body, the Authority on the Responsible Use of Cannabis, will oversee decriminalisation.

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