Updated on January 22, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Patients are rejoicing over Malta’s plan to improve their current medical marijuana program. Although the 2015 Drug Dependence Act laid out the criteria for patients to receive cannabis-based medication prescriptions from government-approved physicians, the plan was ineffective — it required those with debilitating conditions to jump through way too many hoops. Because of this, there are currently no patients taking advantage of the nation’s current cannabis program.
A new bill is currently in Parliament that would allow more patients to participate in the medical marijuana program. It would also lessen the restrictions, making it slightly easier for them to gain a prescription. Although the legislation has not passed yet, it’s looking like 2018 will be the year Malta sees these changes.
Like many of their neighbors near the Mediterranean Sea, Malta is rethinking the medical use of cannabis. The debate has raged throughout Europe, and many nations are easing up on restrictions and giving patients access to this beneficial plant. Advocates have been vocalizing their wish for change in Malta for years.
The current program only allows the cannabis-based medication, Sativex, to be prescribed by government-approved doctors. However, Sativex can only treat multiple sclerosis and the severe spasticity associated with this disease.
Although the new program will not allow raw cannabis or the smoking of marijuana, it will let qualified patients use cannabis oil to treat their debilitating symptoms.
When the new medical marijuana legislation passes, patients will be able to visit any Maltese doctor registered with Malta’s Medical Council. However, this physician must abide by the country’s guidebook, which will explain who qualifies for medical marijuana.
All approved individuals will be added to the patient registry overseen by the Superintendent of Health. Cannabis drugs will be closely monitored, much like prescription narcotics. A patient’s dosage, how long they’ve taken the medications and the amounts will be noted and kept in their records.
With serious drug trafficking on the rise, Malta decided to reduce the penalties for those found in possession of small amounts of cannabis. Their 2015 Drug Dependence Act focuses more on treatment and less on imprisonment.
If an individual is caught with less than 3.5 grams, they will not be carted off to prison. Instead, they must appear before the Commissioner of Justice, who will issue one of three orders:
This decision depends on the specifics of the case, as well as whether the person is a first-time or repeat offender.
Advocates of an improved medical marijuana program have some hesitations about the new legislation. Although it isn’t as restrictive as the current law, it still places limitations that may cause some patients to resort to purchasing their cannabis meds illegally on the black market. Two of their major concerns are:
Under the new law, any registered practitioner in Malta will be able to prescribe cannabis legally. That is, as long as they abide by the government’s guidebook. Also, patients with a valid prescription will be to access safe, government-sanctioned cannabis medications legally. They are hoping this will give more qualified patients access to the medical marijuana they need to treat their debilitating symptoms.
As this new medical marijuana legislation makes its way through the Maltese Parliament, be sure to check back with MarijuanaDoctors.com for updates and additional information. We’re dedicated to educating patients here in the U.S. and abroad, which is why we continually update our resources and provide useful information on our blog.