The impending wave of cannabis reform in Europe will almost certainly be started by the European Union’s smallest country. Federal parliament in Malta, an archipelago nation of just over 500,000 people located in the central Mediterranean Sea, will begin approving a bill Tuesday that would allow people 18 and older to possess and consume up to seven grams of cannabis for recreational use.
The bill also allows adults to grow up to four cannabis plant at home.
Rep. Owen Bonnici, the bill’s sponsor, told the Guardian that Malta’s parliament will likely vote in favor of the legislation on Tuesday, and President George Vella will sign it into law before the weekend. The new law will go into effect as soon as Vella gives it his signature, Bonnici said.
“There is a wave of understanding now that the hard-fist approach against cannabis users was disproportionate, unjust and it was rendering a lot of suffering to people who are leading exemplary lives,” he said. “But the fact that they make use on a personal basis of cannabis is putting them in the jaws of criminality.”
Malta’s legalization will likely be followed similar efforts across the continent to allow full-scale regulated adult-use in the coming year.
Germany’s new chancellor Olaf Scholz has pledged to ratify the plant federally, and Switzerland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Italy are also planning to permit cannabis. So far, just Uruguay, Canada and 16 American states have successfully launched rec, while the entire country of Mexico and three other U.S. states have passed adult-use and plan to launch their programs within the coming months.
The Netherlands earlier this month announced it would let dispensaries begin selling the plant recreationally in the new year. But the country will continue to ban home cultivation.
The widescale cannabis reform in Europe comes on the heels of a decision by the United Nations last year to remove cannabis from its list of substances determined “addictive and dangerous”, and that have “little or no therapeutic use.”
Bonnici told The Guardian that Malta plans to use cannabis productively so that citizens of the country no longer buy the plant from the black market. The Maltese government also hopes the legal plant can be used to wean people off addiction from stronger, more harmful drugs.