Not the Netherlands, but Malta was the first EU country to legalize weed



The smallest country in the EU became the first to allow the cultivation, purchase and use of limited amounts of cannabis by law in 2021. Malta’s parliament voted in favor of legalization and so it happened. Several other European countries were expected to follow in early 2022.

After the parliament had agreed to the new law, all that was left was to wait for some formalities such as the president’s signature. Which were taken care of quite quickly. Over-18’s in Malta were able to legally light up a joint as early as 2021, but only at home. Smoking weed in public or in the presence of a minor remains prohibited, under penalty of a €500 fine.

The new law allows all adults to have up to 7 grams of cannabis in their pocket. In addition, people are allowed to grow four cannabis plants at home and store up to 50 grams of dried plant. It will also be possible to establish non-profit associations of up to five hundred people to grow cannabis exclusively for their own members. Such organizations are emerging in more and more European countries and are often tolerated.

Drug trafficking remains illegal, Prime Minister Robert Abela stressed to his citizens. Owen Bonnici, the minister in charge, said his government did not want to encourage the use of recreational drugs, but that the crackdown on cannabis users was “disproportionate and unjust” and “caused a lot of suffering”. He pointed out that cannabis users had been condemned to the black market, which posed many dangers. To prevent a black market from re-emerging, there was no cap on the strength of legal cannabis.

The prime minister said he also advocated legalization to spare parents “the trauma” of having their children arrested for smoking a joint and having to appear in court. The new law stipulates that children under the age of 18 who are caught with cannabis will no longer be arrested, but will come before a special committee to draw up a care plan. Adults, too, can only get a criminal record if they possess more than 28 grams.


European U-turn

The move by the archipelago is probably the first in a whole series of reforms of cannabis policy in Europe. The new German government recently announced that it wants to establish a legally regulated market. Switzerland and Luxembourg are also working on new legislation. The changed attitude of some European governments followed the UN’s decision last December to remove cannabis from the list of most dangerous drugs.

In several EU member states, the private use of cannabis has been legal for some time, such as in Portugal. The Netherlands is probably the European country most associated with cannabis, but for the time being the country with its tolerance policy remains the odd one out in Europe. In the coalition agreement of 2017, a trial with state cannabis was already recorded, with the aim of curbing drug crime around cannabis. However, the experiment was postponed time and again.


Legal sale of cannabis in The Netherlands not before second quarter 2023

The trial with the legal supply, import and sale of marijuana will start later than planned. A few months ago, the previous government still believed that in the second half of 2022, as an experiment, coffeeshops in selected municipalities would be able to sell cannabis legally for the first time. But the Ministers Kuipers of Public Health and Yesilgöz of Justice and Security wrote that this target date is no longer realistic.

They now believe that sales can begin in the second quarter of the year 2023. This is partly because the selection process of the last growers is taking longer than expected and a number of growers are having problems getting a location. “In addition, with advancing insight, the growers can now give a more realistic estimate of their required preparation time,” write Kuipers and Yesilgöz.


Including a large city

The experiment was agreed upon in the coalition agreement of 2017 and the agreement of 2021 states that the experiment will be continued. Initially it was intended that ten municipalities would participate, but an eleventh will be added, a large city. For this, the law needs to be amended. The government has already approached the four major cities to see if they are interested.

Eight growers have now been appointed, and it is expected that the ninth and tenth will follow soon. The designated growers are in the process of setting up their business, applying for permits and entering into contracts with energy suppliers, among other things.

In the next phase, the participating coffee shops are allowed to sell the products of the designated growers, in addition to the (already existing) tolerated sales. That phase lasts six weeks, and after that the selected coffee shops are no longer allowed to offer products from the illegal circuit. The experiment will last four years.


Early start risk of turning to illegal circuit

Kuipers and Yesilgöz believe that the sale can start in the second quarter of 2023, because by then the “quantity, quality and diversity of the produced hemp and hashish is expected to be sufficient to fully supply the participating coffee shops”. With an earlier start, according to the ministers, there is a risk that the stocks of the coffee shops will run out, that prices will rise to an extreme and that consumers will divert to the illegal market. Kuipers and Yesilgöz call the road to the start “bumpy.” But according to them, observing and solving “the challenges and problems during the preparation are part of the experiment.”


When not in Europe

Since we are not in Europe, and while this information may be interesting when we are traveling to Europe, this is not really relevant for us at this point. For now it’s more interesting to learn where we can get our weed. If you are interested in growing yourself, you might want to have a look at the seed banks on this website. The best part about them is that they ship worldwide. Indeed, that includes Europe.

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