Three medical marijuana companies to create 118 jobs

Medical cannabis production Bill debate in Parliament concludes second reading stage • Opposition concerned Malta could become a hub for drug trafficking • Economy Minister Chris Cardona says three letters of intent have already been given to foreign companies

Economy Minister Chris Cardona said three foreign companies were handed a letter of intent by Malta Enterprise in what is the first step for them to start producing medicinal cannabis in Malta.

The companies are expected to create 118 jobs and the licencing process will have to include clearance by the Medicine's Authortiy once the law comes into force.

Concluding the debate on the law regulating medicinal cannabis production, Cardona said this new development will have a positive economic impact.

Cardona said there were another three companies interested in investing in Malta with a total foreign direct investment of €57 million.

The debate at second reading stage concluded on Tuesday evening with the Opposition raising further concerns on the matter.

Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia stressed the importance of "rigorousness" necessary during the entire process and not only while the investment is being made. Significant changes need to made to the Bill, he said, adding it was not acceptable as it is.

"We are speaking of a specialised sector of medicine which should fall under the health sector, and the way and speed at which this Bill passed seems as if it is being done to accommodate a particular investment," Delia said.

Nationalist MP Kristy Debono said that even though the Bill tackled a health-related issue, it was put forward by the Economy Minister and is ultimately commercially driven. The Bill requires further detail, as eight pages is not enough for such as a sensitive subject, she said.

"The law which was presented was too vague for an industry which needs to be heavily regulated. It would have been more  appropriate if this Bill was more detailed and the legal notices published for consultation," she said.

Debono said the devil was in the detail and rushing to pass the Bill was not the best way forward. She called for an extensive discussion with various stakeholders.

She said a more comprehensive consultation process could have curbed doubts that the country could become a hub for trafficking and unregulated cannabis growers.