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26th September 2019

Exclusive interview with Dr. Miriam Dalli, MEP for Malta

Taking the plunge by Dr. Miriam Dalli

In March 2018, Malta took the plunge to tap into the medical cannabis industry whilst strengthening its research and development in the area by legalising on the matter. This paved the way for the Production of Cannabis for Medicinal and Research Purposes Act, opening the door to a new era in one of the fastest emerging industrial sectors in the world.
Such a decision has the potential to place Malta at the forefront of innovation, hitting two targets at the same time: serving citizens and patients by increasing research in the public health sector, and promoting Malta as an attractive investment destination.

Pushing for progressive and innovative policies, Malta continues to position itself as a centre of excellence. Accountability and compliance remain key. Considering that Malta enjoys a long and extensive history in manufacturing pharmaceuticals, such reputation can provide more peace of mind when it comes to producing medical cannabis.
A robust regulatory infrastructure is what helps Malta evolve as the market key player. The regulation is aimed at maintaining quality standards whilst placing patients’ safety and dignity at the forefront. This is where Malta’s certification as a European Good Manufacturing Practice gains relevance. All medical cannabis products must meet the stringent European GMP certification standard, which represent the highest levels of standards and traceability.
Last year, the European Parliament made serious requests to the European Commission in this regard.
I myself urged the European Commission to start seriously investing in research and development in the area of medical cannabis to ensure safety and provide peace of mind to medical professionals.
Member States need to encourage increased knowledge among both patients and medical professionals regarding the use of cannabis-based medicine whilst making sure that patients have proper and equal access to medical cannabis products. We must ensure that medical cannabis is provided as a safe and equal choice for patients to cater for their actual needs.
It is education, research and a robust legislative framework that can ensure that physicians will prescribe cannabis for medical use and no longer search for a compromise between medical necessity and legislative restrictions.
Fifteen months of enforcing the right legislative framework for production and research of medical cannabis have seen Malta approving 20 project proposals. From an economical point of view, it is estimated that this will generate exports to the tune of €900 million. From an employment point of view, Malta is expected to create 700 jobs.
With good governance and progressive legislation such as blockchain, Malta has an added value. We are open to utilise multiple technologies ranging from the Internet of Things (IoT), to blockchain, in our path towards digital industrialisation.
Blockchain can offer solutions in the medical cannabis industry by regulating medication and conducting research. Blockchain can also contribute to the functioning of IoT. It can be used to track data measurements and prevent duplication. Put simply, blockchain technology can assist licensed producers to fully comply with quality assurance, privacy, transparency and other regulatory requirements.
The so-called ‘cannatech’ is the innovative side of digitisation. With efficient legislative framework that demands a seed-to-sale system, the focus is on the lifecycle of the product. In this way, authorities can guarantee high quality and safety in use.
This is just the beginning.
The way forward between blockchain and medical cannabis should be focused on research. Research on medical cannabis received no direct support during the current EU research programme and there is very little coordination about research projects on medical cannabis in Member States. Further investment in research and development can help provide and disseminate new evidence to medical professionals and the public, ensuring that what is being put on the market is safe.
Scientific research will allow more doctors and medical professionals to prescribe medical cannabis, but will also help policy makers to re-evaluate, improve and adapt practices related to prescription and production of medical cannabis.
Cooperation and sharing of best practice is key for the future, creating a far-reaching legislative framework that encourages research, access to this beneficial treatment and further growth in this market.
Dr. Dalli is scheduled to speak at the upcoming Medical Cannabiz World Summit this November.
The Medical Cannabiz World Summit will take place from the 4th to 5th November at the Intercontinental, St Julian’s, Malta, to be followed by the inaugural launch of the Medical Cannabiz World Asia Summit which will be held in Bangkok on the 22nd and 23rd of June 2020 at the Centara Grand Hotel.
Read more interviews like this in Cannabiz magazine – out now!