Malta has today become the first country in Europe to legalise the cultivation and consumption of cannabis for recreational use, after a historic vote in parliament.
The final vote, passed by 36 votes in favour and 27 against, will legalise the possession of up to seven grams of the drug for those aged 18 and above. Adults will also be allowed to grow up to four plants at home, and store a maximum of 50g of dried product at home. However, smoking in public or around children will remain illegal.
The change will come into effect as soon as it is approved by Malta’s President George Vella, who is required to give his official ascent for the reforms to become law.
Malta has narrowly beaten Luxembourg to become the first European country to allow recreational adult cannabis consumption, as Luxembourg has approved but not yet implemented its legislation to relax drug laws.
The move by Malta is expected to start a wave of cannabis reform across Europe, with countries such as Switzerland and The Netherlands all looking at law change in 2022. The new German coalition government has also announced it will allow adults to consume cannabis for pleasure, while Italy is planning a referendum to decriminalise possession and home cultivation of cannabis.
As well as legalising consumption and cultivation, past criminal convictions for cannabis are to be expunged. Owen Bonnici, the Minister for Equality, Research and Innovation told The Guardian “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. But the fact that they make use on a personal basis of cannabis is putting them in the jaws of criminality.
“I’m very glad that Malta will be the first country which will put words in statute in a comprehensive manner with a regulatory authority” he added.