Malta is the first in the EU to Legalize Cannabis for Personal Use
MEPs today approved a change in legislation that allows citizens to grow and own limited quantities of marijuana.
Under the new law, people over the age of 18 will be able to own up to seven grams of cannabis and grow up to four cannabis stalks at home.
The bill was backed by Prime Minister Robert Abela, but the opposition nationalist party criticized the change on the grounds that it would "normalize and increase drug use" in the country.
The bill was approved by a majority in parliament and will be approved later this week by Maltese President George Vella.
Prime Minister Abela reiterated that the changes would leave drug trafficking illegal.
"We are adopting legislation to tackle the problem by applying a harm reduction approach by regulating the sector so that people do not have to resort to the black market," he told parliament last month.
If caught in possession of between 7 and 28 grams of cannabis, Maltese citizens are subject to a fine of up to 100 euros.
The sanction is increased to 235 euros if they use the drug in public, and between 300 and 500 euros if they use it in front of children.
Non-profit organizations will be allowed to grow cannabis to sell to no more than 500 people, as long as they are not close to schools or youth clubs.
The law will be monitored and implemented by a new government agency in Malta - the Agency for Responsible Cannabis Use.
Several EU countries have decriminalized the possession and use of marijuana for personal use, but the laws are often unclear and the practice is only tolerated.
Malta is already the first European country to introduce laws specifically regulating the use of cannabis for entertainment.
In October, Luxembourg announced plans to allow home cultivation and personal use of marijuana, and the new German government is also considering legalizing its use for entertainment.
In the Netherlands, the possession, consumption and retail sale of up to 5 grams of cannabis has been tolerated since 1976 in so-called "coffee shops".
In Spain, cannabis production is allowed for personal consumption, but not for trade and public use.
Malta, the smallest EU member state, has already authorized the possession of small quantities of cannabis in 2015 and has insisted on allowing the production of the drug for medical use.
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