22% of Maltese say they tried cannabis once in their life

At 30% support for allowing recreational cannabis, Maltese support is second highest in all of the EU, but 61% would only allow medical cannabis

A European Commission survey suggests that more than one in every five Maltese has tried cannabis at least once in their lifetime, including 7% who say they have used it in the previous year.

The Eurobarometer survey shows that support for the legalisation of recreational cannabis in Malta is the second highest in the European Union. But a majority of Maltese respondents still think that cannabis should only be available for medical reasons.

The Europe-wide survey included 505 local interviews, showing that 30% of Maltese agree that cannabis should be allowed both for recreational use and medical use, while 61% want cannabis to be only allowed upon the presentation of a medical prescription. A further 4% of Maltese would also allow medical cannabis without the need of a prescription.

Although the survey was published recently, the interviews with respondents were conducted in July 2021 – five months before parliament presented legislation which allows adults to grow four plants and to buy a maximum of 7.5 grams of cannabis from licensed growing ‘clubs’. Consumption of cannabis in public places remains illegal.

60% favour regulating instead of banning cannabis

But in an indication that the Maltese, like most Europeans, are moving from a prohibitionist outlook, when given a choice between banning and and “regulating” cannabis, 60% opted for the latter option, as do 62% of all respondents in the EU. But most of those favouring regulation would like this to be limited to medical use.

In contrast, only 18% of Maltese would favour “regulating” instead of banning cocaine use, as do 10% of all respondents in the EU.

Across Europe, support for regulating instead of banning cannabis was strongest among younger respondents (67%), the tertiary-educated (66%) and those living in urban areas (66%).

30% favour legalisation

The survey puts support for allowing the recreational use of cannabis at 30%, which is 6 points more than the percentage who favoured the legalisation of recreational cannabis in a MaltaToday survey conducted in 2019.

This could be an indication that support for legalisation grew in the last two years, marked by a more pronounced stance by the Labour Party in favour of regulating recreational use of cannabis.

Support for ‘allowing’ recreational cannabis is highest in the Netherlands (41%), a country which for the past decades has practiced a policy of toleration by allowing the sale of cannabis from licensed coffee shops.  But even in the Netherlands 44% would restrict cannabis to those needing it for medical purposes.

The second highest support for ‘allowing’ recreational use is found in Malta which has recently liberalised its drug laws; and in Germany, whose new coalition government also plans to permit the recreational use of the drug.  Support for allowing recreational use was lowest in Scandinavian countries like Finland and Sweden, and Eastern European countries like Latvia, Bulgaria and Romania.

Significantly, the Maltese are split on whether cannabis has negative health effects or not. 50% of Maltese think that cannabis has few or no negative health effects. These include 17% who think that cannabis has no negative impacts. In contrast, 22% think that cannabis has serious negative health effects while 23% think it has negative effects.


22% have used cannabis at least once

The survey also asked respondents whether they have consumed cannabis in their life. While a MaltaToday survey in 2019 showed that only 9% had tries cannabis once in their lifetime, the Eurobarometer gives substantially higher figures.

While 7% of Maltese have consumed cannabis in the past 12 months, of which 3% have done so in the past month, 15% have consumed cannabis at least once in their life but not in the past year.

This means that 22% of Maltese have tried the drug at least once in their life.

But the vast majority (78%) said they had never consumed cannabis, 6 points higher than in the whole of the EU (72%).

43% of Maltese also think that obtaining cannabis within 24 hours of requesting it, is either ‘very’ or ‘fairly easy’ compared to only 25% who think that obtaining cocaine is easy.

56% of respondents in all EU member states think that obtaining cannabis within 24 hours is easy.

Cannabis is easiest to obtain in the Netherlands (76%); but in an indication that the vast majority would not try cannabis even if this is legally available, in the Netherlands where coffee shops are licensed to sell it, 63% say they have never consumed cannabis.

The highest percentage of people who have tried cannabis (38%) is found in the Czech Republic, where the drug is only partly decriminalised.