Malta geared up for Medical Cannabis

Although Malta is the smallest state in the European Union, it has been putting itself at the forefront as a centre of excellence for financial services, digital gaming, IT and blockchain services, and more recently medical cannabis.

The Maltese Government is commited in promoting and supporting the field of research and production of medicinal cannabis. As a key step in this direction, in 2018, Malta enacted the Production of Cannabis for Medicinal and Research Purposes Act which provides the legislative measures to permit the production of cannabis for medicinal and research purposes. 

We see the production of medical cannabis as a progression within the life sciences sector, which already includes the production of pharmaceuticals, active ingredients, medical devices, testing and batch release operations, research and clinical work, dossier building and so much more.

“By being the first in most of these areas, Malta is proud to be Europe’s island of innovation, where ideas are born, tried and tested, then shared with the whole world”

– Hon. Joseph Muscat, Prime Minister of Malta at Cannabis Europa in London June 2019.

Just last month, Malta hosted the inaugural edition of Medical Cannabiz World, as well as the Medcann World Forum, bringing together global experts and professionals.

Why Malta?

Malta has become one of the preferred locations for doing business. The ability to keep abreast of current events and developments has given it a cutting edge when competing with other countries, regardless of size. The country’s attractiveness stems from a number of factors:

  • It is an ideal business hub with its strategic position in the centre of the Mediterranean and excellent communication infrastructure
  • A stable and fast-growing economy with record-low unemployment of 3.9% and highest GDP growth rate among the EU28 in 2018
  • An established base of English-speaking prospective employees and ease of attracting expatriates to work in Malta
  • A tax efficient base, with an extensive network of double taxation treaties
  • Availability of financial incentives and enterprise support measures under the Malta Enterprise Act, Income Tax Act and Business Promotion Act, varying from tax credits/deductions/exemptions, reduced rates of tax, incentives for job creation and training, to cash grants for part-financing of expenditure (e.g. R&D).
  • Rated as one of the safest places to live, with excellent healthcare & educational services

More specifically, investment in medical cannabis can readily build on the following:

  • A robust Pharma & Life Sciences sector boasting a number of reputable operators like Teva Pharmaceuticals, Siegfried and Medichem, amongst many others
  • A highly reputed regulator – the Malta Medicines Authority – one of the best medicines authorities in Europe recognised by both the European Medicines Agency and the US Food and Drug Administration.
  • A Life Sciences Park, containing high-end facilities for the chemistry, biology and digital imaging sectors, adjoining the University of Malta, the main teaching hospital as well as the national oncology centre. The Park is designed to allow companies to commence operations with minimal preparation to focus on their core activities, as well as leverage synergies with other companies within the Park and with academia.
  • Industrial and agricultural land has been earmarked for new businesses, to facilitate everything from the cultivation of small batches of medical cannabis to the extraction and manufacturing of medicinal products for the companies.
  • A gold standard of quality, where projects are approved after a thorough due diligence process to secure the best companies for this sector
  • Companies will be able to export their medicinals into the European market. In 10 years, the European medical cannabis market is set to be worth more than €55bn.

A transparent and efficient application process

In establishing operations in Malta related to medicinal cannabis production, analysis and research, the following are the key steps required:

  • Compliance with all applicable regulations including those emanating from the Production of Cannabis for Medicinal and Research Purposes Act and the Medicines Act
  • Application through a prescribed form for a Letter of Intent from Malta Enterprise (ME), the national agency responsible for promoting and facilitating international investment in the Maltese Islands. ME shall ensure that the proposed activity is solely a production process.
  • Application for a Licence from the Malta Medicines Authority (MMA), subject to:

-evaluation of all required documents to be submitted by the applicant, including due diligence documentation

-attainment by the applicant of authorisations, permits, approvals and clearances from other entities as may be applicable

-compliance by the applicant with relevant terms and conditions, including possession of qualifications in line with the Mutual Recognition of Qualifications Act.

Malta has already started to attract medical cannabis projects from all over the globe, including Canada, Australia, Israel and the US.    As at November 2019, ME had approved 24 projects with a capital investment of €140.9m and a total export value in year 3 of €1.026bn.   Among the approved projects are MGC Pharma, Supreme, Aurora, Aphria, Affinity, Columbia Care, MPXI, Wayland, Alvit LCS Pharma and Panaxia.

If you are interested to know more about this topic or if you are considering Malta as the place for doing business, feel free to contact Dunstan Magro, Managing Partner, WDM International on [email protected]