Did Malta really just run out of cannabis?

Published Sep 15, 2020 09:00 a.m. ET
iStock / Cristian Mircea Balate

2020 hasn’t been kind to any industry, but for the most part, cannabis companies have done their best to continue to thrive even in these trying times. It’s been a rocky road to venture upon since the very beginning, and some regions have had better luck maintaining a consistent supply of cannabis, but many continue to struggle to keep up with demand.

If you’ve been watching marijuana news headlines, then you know that there is a weed shortage in Malta of epic proportions, and that is impacting both medicinal and recreational consumers alike. Despite both avenues of use gaining legal status and the region's renowned reputation as the hub of Europe's cannabis industry, store shelves and the pockets of street dealers are running dry.

Where is Malta?

Malta consists of a group of islands that are all located on the Mediterranean Sea. This small European country is a Republic, and it rests in the middle of Tunisia and Sicily, which is why it is often confused for a portion of Italy. The region though small, is home to approximately 433,000 residents, garnering it the title of the 9th most densely populated country today.

Why this is happening

Consumers almost everywhere in the world have seen the supply of popular household goods drop to proportions they have never witnessed before, and cannabis is not immune to this trend. Though most countries pride themselves on the fact that they rely on local producers, cannabis exports and imports are still a major part of the equation, but not the only problem that countries like Malta face.

The estimated number of cannabis consumers in Malta is 40,000, and all of them are having a tough time trying to find these products. Andrew Bonello, the president of ReLeaf Malta, offers another deeper root of the issue, as he believes that the biggest problem residents here are seeing is the fallout of a lack of diversity and availability.

Malta, like most other regions with some form of legalization, has in place strict regulations that make it difficult for new players to receive approval for new products. Unfortunately, the area's rules are so strict that only two medical cannabis brands have managed to make it to the market. The first Pedanios has been out of stock at most medicinal dispensaries in the region for more than a month, and the alternative Bedrocan hasn’t been available for at least 2 or 3 weeks.

The weed shortage has gotten so bad that it’s prompted politicians like Alex Agius Saliba, who has long advocated for medicinal cannabis consumers to speak up in hopes of improving the system that is currently in place which would allow more companies to safely produce and distribute medical cannabis to those who need it the most so that patients are never again forced to go without their medicine.

On top of a serious shortage from work stoppage, after COVID-19 ravaged the world, government intervention which has stifled markets worldwide, and very little cannabis products crossing borders, we’re reaching the end of the growing season. This is a time when the black market normally dries up a bit, as growers prepare for harvest, which is a large part of why consumers aren’t having much for luck from street dealers either.

The situation was already looking incredibly bleak for Maltese, and all of that was made even more difficult by the sheer number of people who are staying at home, which means that they’re smoking more weed, increasing demand suddenly, and unexpectedly in a market that was already highly undersupplied. Everything combined has led to the very real weed shortage that Malta sees today, and it may be a while yet before this region's residents see much for a reprieve.

When the problem will be rectified

Government officials have no idea when things will return to normal in Malta, and there is no definitive date for when this weed shortage may end, but there is some relief in the cards for black market consumers who should soon be seeing an influx of new products, as local cannabis is harvested and cured for consumption. It seems that this country’s residents would benefit most from the simple ability to grow their own products, a shift that may soon be adopted if advocates get their way.

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