[WATCH] Medicinal cannabis industry to generate close to 500 jobs in three years

Economy minister Chris Cardona said conservative estimates had the companies that have so far shown interest in Malta investing up to €50 million

Economy minister Chris Cardona
Economy minister Chris Cardona

Medicinal cannabis companies eyeing Malta as a base of operations, once the necessary legislation has been approved by parliament, would could generate up to 500 jobs over the next three years, according to Economy minister Chris Cardona.

The minister was a guest on current affairs programme Xtra hosted by Saviour Balzan, where he again stressed that the government had already signed three letters of intent with three medicinal cannabis companies, which he said would be investing up to €7.5 million, and employing roughly 118 employees over the next three years.

In addition to the three companies, Cardona said the government was also in discussions with other market players, which when companied could see an additional €45 million being invested, and a further 350 jobs created.

On Tuesday, the Canadian company Nuuvera announced the acquisition of a Maltese pharmaceutical laboratory, which it will be using to create an export hub to service a growing European market.

“It is a conservative estimate, but lets say we are talking about not less than five to six factories,” said Cardona.

Also on the programme were the Opposition’s spokesperson on the economy Kristy Debono, and Andrew Agius, a doctor and an advocate of the use of medicinal cannabis.

Kristy Debono (left), Chris Cardona (centre) and Andrew Agius (right)
Kristy Debono (left), Chris Cardona (centre) and Andrew Agius (right)

On her part, Debono said she was not against moving to attract the industry to Malta, but said she would have been happier with an industry that left a larger multiplier effect.

Moreover, she warned that the proposed legislation was being rushed through parliament. Debono said the Opposition had requested more information about the law, such as details on whether cultivation would be permitted, as well as the fact that the law seemed to lack a “polluter pays” principle.

Caritas, she said, had also expressed concerns about a lack of information, while Eric Castillo, of the pro-legalisation NGO 'Releaf', noted that the legislation did not distinguish between medicinal cannabis products containing only the non-psychoactive cannabinoid CBD, and those that also contained the psychoactive THC.

Cardona said that the “trailblazing” law would allow Malta to attract world-leaders in the sector. He acknowledged that there were some details on the government’s discussions with interested companies that had not been made public, but added that non-disclosure agreements needed to be respected when talks were at an early stage.

Turning to the issue of cultivation, Cardona explained that the existing legislation, including the Business Promotion Act, did not allow for the production of cannabis for commercial purposes. Moreover, he said the legislation currently being debated in parliament made it clear that cultivation would be allowed only for research purposes.

Asked whether a company could come to Malta in the future and attempt to cultivate cannabis to be sold, the minister was categorical in his denial: “no way”. 

Ultimately, he said the law would be accommodating investors’ interests while also ensuring security and traceability, from “seed to patient”.