In the past five years, much effort has been put into the establishment of a medicinal cannabis market within the Maltese Islands. Now that Malta has issued its first licensed medicinal cannabis producer, one would think that the taboo about the use of medicinal cannabis is now making way for a more open, accessible and affordable market for patients. It’s not.
For starters, the Canadian company Aphria will only be manufacturing, packing and testing cannabis in Malta. The entire process of growing the plant will be taken place in Canada which only shows how Malta is not entirely accepting of the plant’s production.
Secondly, this new company has the potential of tapping into a newly established market and benefit from establishing a strong commercial presence in the European Union. The question I raise is will medicinal cannabis become more affordable, diversified and accessible for Maltese patients?
Thirdly, the introduction of Aphria‘s cannabis company in Malta seem to continue to shift away attention from the needs and plights of medicinal cannabis patients, who have on repeated occasions lamented that the current system has not been designed for their well-being but is a money-making machine for local distributors and stakeholders. The right for medicinal cannabis patients to grow their own medicinal cannabis or find a compassionate grower that together with consultation with the doctor, is able to better match a particular strain with ailments. Currently, cannabis can only be produced in Malta for medicinal or scientific purposes authorized by KSi Malta with the proper documentation for security purposes. The issuing of Aphria as a licensed medicinal producer for the Maltese Islands shows the Maltese government’s emphasis of cannabis being for medicinal and commercial purposes only.
The fact that Malta’s politicians see this as a major step is worrisome. Cannabis is scientifically proven to be useful for medicinal purposes yet it is only now that Malta is allowing it to be introduced in the market. This further raises concern on how our politicians expect to implement a more just and human approach with medicinal cannabis patients. Furthermore, when one considers the continued injustice and discrimination against people who consume cannabis, it is questionable how the recent developments can be celebrated as a success. From a human right and the right to health perspective, are Maltese patients truly benefiting from the present system and newly introduced commercial interests?
The EU allows member states to control jurisdiction of cannabis within their said countries however not enough pressure is being made to allow the cultivation and consumption of cannabis in a regulated and human rights based policy environment. The emphasis within the EU is focused mainly on medicinal cannabis in which most doctors find hard to prescribe since the legalization of medicinal cannabis is relatively new according to the EMCDDA (European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction).
Cannabis consumption is a topic which needs to be discussed further however before making any decision, by giving medicinal cannabis patients and people who use cannabis, a more central role in decision making and developments in the field. They are the true experts and the country would greatly benefit if these people are given a platform to voice their concerns and propose alternative and human rights based solutions.
A legal framework needs to be put in place to allow the cultivation and consumption of medicinal cannabis in a more humane environment and ensure that all patients have equal opportunity to access the medicinal cannabis they need, including different THC:CBD levels and preparations. This can only be done if the local authorities recognise the basic right of cultivating cannabis for personal use and amend the current discriminatory laws on cannabis.
It is clear that the taboo about medicinal cannabis and cannabis use in general continues to be negatively imping on the right to health and the right to privacy of medicinal cannabis patients as well as people who consume cannabis. It is therefore imperative to better understand the effects of cannabis and analyse how different policy options produce different out comes and results.
As there continues to be a witch hunt against people who use cannabis and a hotchpotch of judicial sentencing when people are arrested for the cultivation and consumption of cannabis, it is important the country moves towards a more evidence-based approach and ensure human rights are respected for all.