When we think of Malta, we have mental images of its beaches, its coastlines, the sun, holiday enjoyment…but, in reality, Malta goes beyond these nice images. This tiny member state of the European Union could soon become a powerhouse of the medical marijuana industry. It is a bold move and only the beginning. Malta is striving to position itself as a leading medical cannabis production and supplier. In the past, Malta made a name for itself in the field of production of generic pharmaceuticals, commonly known as generics, and it seems a new chapter is about to be initiated.
It is all thanks to the Production of Cannabis for Medicinal Use Act, which would allow dried cannabis, cannabis oil, seeds and derivatives to be produced and sold from Malta. Under the bill, any company wishing to enter the marijuana market would have to undergo preliminary approval and provide a strong business case. From there, provided they meet the acceptance criteria, they would be issued a license by the Medicines Authority, which will ultimately be responsible for regulating the industry. The bill would also allow all doctors accredited by the Maltese Medical Council to prescribe medical cannabis. Beyond allowing manufacturing, the new marijuana bill also opens the possibility for companies to carry out research, including clinical trials.
Deepak Anand, Vice President of Government Relations at Cannabis Compliance, shared on Malta Today that “with the changes proposed by the Maltese Prime Minister and forward-thinking Cabinet members, regulations have been amended to allow for Malta to become a world leader in medical cannabis processing and manufacturing. I might argue this is a second coming of the Maltese pharmaceutical industry that boomed significantly just after Malta became part of the EU, and the advantage Maltese companies had due to the lack of patent registrations by big pharma in the early 1990s”.
Some industry experts contend that the European medical cannabis market is expected to be worth an estimated 35.7 billion dollars a year. The number of prospective applications to Malta Enterprise is on the rise and they include Maricann Group Inc. – a company having productions operations in Dresden, Saxony, Germany and Regensdorf and Switzerland. This group intends to supply its Maltese operation with raw materials that will then undergo advanced post-processing to create pure cannabis distillates, allowing for true pharmaceutical manufacturing. Ben Ward, the CEO says:
“Maricann continues its path of organic growth and value acquisitions throughout the European Union, accessing key markets for differentiated products through Malta. We will continue to implement our template for success across Europe, as we expand from operations in Germany, Switzerland and Malta to new markets. We’ve seen parabolic growth in new markets over the past two years, and will expect to continue to see new markets open.”
The Company has received an initial allocation of 2,750 square metres of industrial space subject to it meeting a number of conditions.
Being a member of the European Union offers Malta natural advantages when it comes to doing business within the trading bloc. “The market for medical cannabis is increasing exponentially worldwide” Julia Farrugia Portelli, a member of parliament who also serves as Parliamentary Secretary for Reforms, Citizenship and Simplification of Administrative Processes, told Marijuana Business Daily.
“Our model acts as a pull factor aimed at attracting global players, foreign investment, generating employment and widening the portfolio of our pharmaceutical industry”, said Farrugia Portelli.
Medical marijuana is a highly attractive niche market which Malta is targeting using its ability to enact innovative legislation expeditiously and by the deployment of its robust regulatory frameworks to position itself as a leader in this up and coming sector. Its success in attracting generic pharma in the past decade is a good indicator of the potential of Malta in this new endeavour. Malta is thus ideally positioned to be one of the most suitable medical cannabis suppliers to other EU member states and the rest of the world.