Cannabis reform: Applications for non-profits will open on 28 February

Interested in starting a cannabis club? Here are all the details you need to know to get the ball rolling • Cannabis clubs to be dubbed ‘harm reduction clubs’ in sop to anti-drugs charities

Anyone interested in setting up a non-profit cannabis club will be able to apply for a license as from 28 February.

The Association for the Responsible Use of Cannabis (ARUC) will be opening applications next month, with licensing subject to a set of standards concerning operations, cultivation, sampling, testing, packaging and labelling.

ARUC gave an overview of the application process and relevant criteria during its ‘Setting the Standards’ conference at the MFCC in Ta’ Qali on Friday morning.

Non-profit clubs will be called ‘Cannabis Harm Reduction Associations’ and will have to be registered with ARUC to receive licensing. 
Each club must have two founding members and a list of administrators that must have been a resident in Malta for five years. There will also be a quality controller appointed in the club, as well as people responsible for security and distribution. 

Any listed administrators cannot have a criminal history of insolvency, money laundering, or terrorist financing. This is to avoid the use of non-profit clubs as a front for organised crime. 

Licenses will be valid for one year, after which they can be renewed for a further three years. The license fee will be set at €1,000, while the application fee will vary according to membership size. Each club can have up to 500 members. 

Each club will have to give a percentage share of every euro earned to a harm reduction fund. 

Clubs will be in charge of cultivating their product from seed to sale. Clubs will be able to purchase seeds from abroad, but only from the EU market and other approved jurisdictions. 

Clubs will be able to cultivate the seed at any available location so long as it remains out of sight and the club remains compliant with other planning regulations. 

For example, if someone currently grows tomatoes in an agricultural field, that person will be able to switch their permit with the agricultural department and use that field to grow cannabis instead. However, the cannabis plants will have to be hidden away from plain sight, either in a greenhouse or with other methods. 

The club itself can set up shop anywhere in Malta but cannot be situated close to a school or youth centre. The shop must have proper ventilation and CCTV on site. It also cannot be seen to promote cannabis use in its signage or shop name. 

Each club must also file their audited financial accounts with ARUC.

Clubs will not be able to advertise their services and will be obliged to focus on harm reduction before all other interests. People working in these clubs will also be given harm reduction training by ARUC.

ARUC will be conducting quality control using samples from cannabis clubs to make sure no one is given a contaminated product. The Authority will use accredited and independent laboratories for testing, but the standards will be different to those used for medical-grade cannabis. 

There will be no price caps or minimum price levels on cannabis products, and clubs will not be subject to tax. However, the authority is still communicating with the Commissioner for Revenue to understand whether a VAT will be applied to cannabis sales.

Cannabis clubs will not be allowed to sell alcohol, and cannabis can only be sold in bud form. You will not be able to buy joints at these clubs. Small paraphernalia such as grinders can be sold at clubs.

Anyone above 18 years will be able to become a member of a club, but cannot be a member of multiple clubs.

ARUC will not be setting a quota on the number of clubs that can be set up across the islands. 

The authority is also still discussing whether non-profit members will be able to smoke inside the club.

Any club found to be in breach of regulations could have its license revoked and cannabis confiscated.