Cannabis dispensary

Since Malta legalised recreational cannabis for personal possession in 2021 (albeit within strict parameters), cannabis social clubs will finally be possible once applications are open on 28th February.

The Authority for the Responsible Use of Cannabis (ARUC) published the licensing guidelines on 6th February ahead of the opening of applications. It is emphasised that the ultimate purpose of the clubs is to foster harm reduction.

Within the licensing guidelines, the ARUC makes it explicit that cannabis associations will be known as Cannabis Harm Reduction Associations.

Creating the association

According to the licence guidelines, at least two persons are required to create an association, however, it must be governed by a Board of Administration of at least three individuals.

The board will have to appoint/engage individuals to the following positions:

  • Key officer (qualified/possesses five or more years of management experience) who will be the organisation’s legal and judicial representation and will have to personally supervise operations. They will also be the primary contact person of ARUC, therefore they will also be required to approve the individual
  • An individual responsible for the growing site,
  • An individual responsible for security,
  • An individual responsible for the distribution of cannabis to the members,
  • An individual responsible for quality control,
  • An individual responsible for quality assurance who will be required to perform product testing.

While ARUC may allow an individual to occupy multiple roles, it is not encouraged. The regulator also makes it clear that the key officer cannot also be responsible for quality control, and the person responsible for quality assurance shall not be a member of the association.

The guidelines clarify that founding members, administrators and key officers must be fit and proper individuals who have been residents in Malta for at least five years before being appointed to the role.

Any employee must also be a resident of Malta.

A cannabis association will be required to submit a three-year project of their operations alongside their application for the licence and pay a €1,000 fee.

Their premises will need to be registered and approved by ARUC, and will require both a class 4B permit and a class 5A permit. The premises will not be allowed within 250m of a school or youth centre, and must not be visible from the outside. It will also need security features which regulate who is allowed entrance.

Operating the association

Cannabis associations will be required to be completely responsible for the cultivation and distribution of cannabis for the benefit of their members in a non-profit manner.

Only distribution will be allowed to take place at the premises of the association, no other activity nor consumption of cannabis will be allowed.

Only dried cannabis flowers will be allowed for distribution. The ARUC may allow associations to distribute prescribed cannabis goods, however, they must be in the same, dried form.

Cannabis will have to be packaged in tamper-evident, child-resistant packaging with clear labelling and health warnings, which ARUC will prescribe.

Cannabis associations will not be allowed to procure or transfer cannabis in any shape or form to other individuals, associations, or entities. As a result, they will be operating in relative isolation from other associations involved in cannabis.

Associations will be subject to some paperwork requirements too. They will need to submit their financial reports regularly along with their audited accounts, and be subject to rigorous anti-money laundering procedures.

Founding members, administrators, designated persons, and employees will also need to attend training on harm reduction measures, as the associations will be obligated to adopt harm reduction mechanisms to promote the safe use of cannabis.

A yearly fee will have to be paid by the association, depending on how many members it has. How much the fee is expected to be is not yet public however it will be categorised in the following manner:

  • 0 – 50 members
  • 51 – 100 members
  • 101 – 250 members
  • 251 – 350 members
  • 351 – 500 members

ARUC made it explicitly clear in the guidelines that under no circumstances is advertising or promotion allowed in any way.

Membership of the association

Only individuals aged 18 and over who are residents of Malta will be allowed to become members of cannabis associations.

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