Malta is set to become the first EU country to permit the use, purchase and growth of cannabis for recreational use after a vote in the country's parliament on Tuesday.
Under the new law, adult cannabis users can carry up to 7 grams of cannabis, grow up to four plants at home or buy small quantities of the drug from associations set up for the cannabis trade.
Cannabis associations will have to operate as non-profits and will be prohibited from advertising the drug or their services.
People with prior convictions for crimes related to cannabis possession will also have their criminal records expunged.
Malta’s parliament approved the law despite opposition lawmakers voting against it. The approved law is now expected to be signed by Malta’s president within days.
The Maltese government has argued that the reform is a harm reduction measure that will stifle the black market for cannabis and end the criminalization of users.
“If an adult decides to make use of cannabis, he or she must have a safe and regularized route from where the cannabis can be obtained,” said Reforms Minister Owen Bonnici, who pushed the reform.
The law was passed despite staunch opposition from employers, educators, medical associations and church-led organizations.
While countries like the Netherlands and Spain tolerate recreational cannabis, Malta is the first EU country to formally legislate to allow its sale and production. Luxembourg and Germany have also indicated that they intend to introduce laws regulating recreational cannabis use, with Italy expected to stage a referendum on the issue.