Malta becomes first EU nation to legalise cannabis

The bill was promoted by Equality Minister Owen Bonnici, who says Malta has adopted a "harm-reduction approach" with the establishment of an authority to regulate the sale of cannabis for personal use by adults from non-profit associations.

Smoking cannabis in public will remain against the law and anyone caught consuming cannabis in front of a child will be liable for fines of between $340-$564.

The legislation was rushed through parliament in the face of fierce criticism from the centre-right opposition, medical associations and the church who complained that their requests to water down the proposals were ignored.

''We are going to curb drug trafficking by making sure that people who make use of cannabis now have a safe and regularised way from where they can obtain cannabis," minister Bonnici said.

Malta is also seeking to position itself as a European leader in the production of medical cannabis having approved legislation in 2018 to permit the production of such cannabis for medicinal and research purposes.

The Netherlands also has a liberal attitude towards cannabis, allowing the sale of small quantities in a policy aimed at managing crime and health risks, though officially it is illegal.

Luxembourg announced plans to legalise Cannabis in October but its parliament has yet to give its green light to the measure.