Malta Still Hasn’t Awarded Any Cannabis Club Licenses

Malta, which became the first European Union country to legalize adult-use cannabis in 2021, still hasn’t licensed any non-commercial cannabis clubs despite having received 26 applications since the application window opened about four months ago.

Full story after the jump.

Editor’s note: This article was contributed by Johnny Green, Media and Content Director for the International Cannabis Business Conference.

Going into 2023, it appeared that Malta was poised to issue non-commercial cannabis club licenses in quick order. However, as we near the midway point of this year, the European nation has still yet to issue its first license.

Permitting non-commercial cannabis clubs was a key component of an adult-use legalization measure passed by lawmakers in Malta in late 2021. In addition to non-commercial cannabis clubs, adults 18 and over can carry up to seven grams of cannabis in Malta and cultivate up to four plants at their residences.

Club applications first became available in Malta nearly four months ago and while 26 applications have been submitted thus far, Malta’s government has yet to approve any of them.

Non-commercial cannabis club provisions

The head of Malta’s Authority for the Responsible Use of Cannabis Leonid McKay stated earlier this month that “just because we have 26 applications, it does not mean we will be granting 26 licences. There will be a rigorous vetting process.”

Each club license applicant must pay a €1,000 registration fee, as well as another €1,000 for the license itself for the first 50 members, if approved. For approved cannabis clubs — however many that proves to be — membership will be capped at 500 members.

The clubs cannot advertise, and they cannot ‘incite the use of cannabis.’ Additionally, clubs cannot be located within 250 meters of a school or ‘youth center.’
Adult citizens in Malta can only join one club at a time, the cannabis sold through the clubs must be labeled in a manner that ‘discourages cannabis use,’ and all packaging must include THC levels. Clubs that provide cannabis to members 18-20 years old must limit sales to products with capped THC levels.

Local banks provide reassurance

One thing that every non-commercial cannabis club will presumably need is a bank account, even though they are not permitted to generate profits. All revenue from club sales is mandated to be reinvested in the club’s efforts and to support club salaries.

While I suppose it’s possible to perform those functions without a bank account, financial tasks will obviously be much easier for clubs in Malta to perform with access to the nation’s financial system.

Thankfully, local banks, via the head of Malta’s Authority for the Responsible Use of Cannabis, provided reassurances earlier this month that they will indeed work with approved club applicants. Securing banking access was a vital component that the government was waiting for prior to approving licenses, yet it’s still unclear what other facets may be delaying approvals.

Malta was the first European country to pass a national adult-use legalization measure and remains the only country to have done so on the continent. It’s an important fact that international observers need to keep in mind, as it is extremely difficult to be the first country to do something when it involves cannabis commerce. However, patience appears to be running out in Malta and any further delays only benefit the unregulated market.

The expected licensing of Malta’s non-commercial cannabis clubs will be a major discussion topic at the International Cannabis Business Conference later this month in Berlin.

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