In the final months of 2021, Europe emerged as a hotbed of cannabis reform.
In Italy, activists collected enough signatures to put a decriminalization measure on the 2022 ballot. In Luxembourg, the Justice Minister put forth a proposal for legislation that would legalize personal consumption and cultivation of cannabis, and a vote in Parliament is expected in 2022. And in Germany, the party of new Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the Free Democratic Party, is part of a three-party coalition that agreed to pursue the decriminalization of adult use and sales under his leadership.
But the title of “first” has gone to Malta, which, with President George Vella’s signature on Dec. 18, became the first country in the European Union to legalize cannabis cultivation and possession for personal use.
While cannabis policies in other countries, namely the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain, range from decriminalization to a tolerance of sales, Malta is the first country in the EU to fully embrace legalization. Though, unlike Uruguay and Canada, the first two countries in the world to legalize cannabis, Malta’s new law does not include a regulatory framework for sales.
Under the new law, adults “over the age of eighteen” can legally possess up to seven grams of cannabis, which is one-fourth of the typical legal limit of one ounce seen in adult use programs in the US. Further, at home, these adults can legally cultivate up to four plants and possess up to “fifty grams of dried cannabis.” And finally, adults will be allowed to form not-for-profit cannabis clubs, where up to 500 members can collectively cultivate and distribute cannabis among members.
“The entry into force of this robust legislative framework underlines this government’s willingness to make bold decisions by implementing wise and unprecedented reforms in order to bring about change and social justice in the best interests of society as a whole,” said Minister for Equality, Research and Innovation Owen Bonnici, who led the effort, in a statement.
Europe’s turn toward cannabis has been slow, but thoughtful. As Cannabis Wire reported last year, cannabis pilot programs have begun to pop up across the continent, ranging in scope from medical to adult use. France and Denmark, for example, have ongoing medical cannabis pilot programs, while in the Netherlands, several cities are testing out “a regulated supply chain,” as the current coffee shops, and their suppliers, are unregulated.
So far, though, in Europe, only Germany appears poised to embrace a full-on industry, which, with twice the population of Canada, would make it the world’s largest legal cannabis market.
That is, unless Mexico moves first.