From Hemp to Hope – How Malta is Planting the Seeds of Medical Innovation

Plants have provided most of our most pervasive and most effective medicines. Even the advent of industrial pharmacy did not substantially change this relationship between man and plant for many of our most successful pharmaceuticals are simply refinements of products that occur naturally in botanical nature. Aspirin is, in fact, a successor and refinement to Salicin, naturally occurring and produced in the bark of Willow trees. Aspirin is among the biggest botanical benefactors of humanity, but it is just one of so many pharmaceuticals to come from plants. But it takes much labour, research and investment to deliver a scientifically reliable product from the phytochemistry of its origin. Malta is currently working on delivering another such wonder product to the world of public health – Medical Cannabis.

Malta – A Tradition of Innovation

Since accession to the EU, Malta has taken advantage of the facilities offered by EU membership to leverage all its assets in setting up a jurisdiction that combines agile legislation, adaptable regulation, and passporting right across the EU. In the past fifteen years, Malta has set up unrivalled legal facilities for iGaming, Shipping and Aviation, and Distributed Ledger Technology. It is also working on setting up equally favourable regimes for Artificial Intelligence, and the Internet of Things. Now Malta is applying this same drive and initiative to do the same for Medical Cannabis.

Malta’s support of innovation and emergent trends takes a two-pronged approach. The first one is legal. It is fully aware of the importance of legal certainty for businesses, researchers, investors, and clients. It is only through legal certainty that one is free to operate with peace of mind. Moreover, Maltese EU membership ensures that anyone acquiring a licence to operate in Malta has full passporting facilities throughout the EU. In mid-Q2 2018, Malta passed into law the Production of Cannabis for Medicinal and Research Purposes Act (Chap. 578 of the Laws of Malta). Any person satisfying the usual regulatory criteria of other Maltese authorities in finance and business, and has the requisite and recognized qualifications, can apply for a licence to cultivate cannabis for the abovementioned reasons. Subsequently, Subsidiary Legislation complementary to the Act (S.L. 578.01) was published to further explicate the new Maltese law.    

The second prong of Malta’s approach is the focus on research. The country recognizes that the world we are living in is driven by breakneck innovation and the unstoppable emergence of new technologies. Without adequate research, there is risk that these technologies do not fulfil the promise of the potential that they hold, or may do harm. Since EU membership made Malta an attractive destination for investors and researchers, Malta has built industry after industry simply by providing a friendly and supportive jurisdiction for research and development. The Malta Cannabis Act is a natural product of this approach. With the facility of such legislation and regulation, Malta is attracting businesses keen to set up facilities for carrying out research into the medical and scientific use of cannabis in an EU-regulated jurisdiction. With the serenity of legal certainty provided by the Maltese jurisdiction, these companies are beginning to provide the research that this plant has lacked for so long.

Nonetheless, the focus on research does not emerge only from the provision of legal certainty. Malta’s calendar is full of summits and conferences that bring together scientists and investors to share their research into the particular industry in which they are working. Malta is becoming such a hub of global research in emerging technology that such events are held almost on a weekly basis. In November alone, Malta held two summits on Medical Cannabis, one in the first week of November, and the other in the third week of the same month.

Operating in Malta

If the prospect of legal certainty and full EU passporting is not inducement enough to operate in Malta, there are other considerations that are certain to tip the balance. Malta has a young population with an unusually high percentage of university graduates. Its politicians are still young, and belong to a generation that started to acquire multiple degrees in all fields. This has created an environment full of young, highly educated human resources full of passion for innovative ideas, and a completely open mind. It is therefore no surprise that Malta’s highly educated politicians, professionals and workforce have created an environment that thrives on setting up new industries and seeking business opportunities in new ideas.

From Malta Enterprise, Malta’s economic agency, whose will to assist investors is proverbial, to its regulators that run a tight ship without undue burden, setting up a business or an institution in Malta is a quick and painless process. Malta has a plethora of specialist businesses that provide all necessary financial and corporate services to new organizations, helping them make the most of all the benefits that the jurisdiction offers, including very a competitive tax system, that, among other benefits, includes full imputation.

However, without a doubt, Malta’s most attractive feature is the interaction between the regulatory regimes for its innovative industries, such as iGaming, Fintech, Distributed Ledger Technology, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, and the technological and corporate synergy between these industries. An institution producing Cannabis for medical and scientific purposes that is seated in the middle of such technological, legal, financial and corporate synergy with full access to the entire EU will enjoy advantages that few of its competitors ever will. Imagine carrying out research into the medical benefits of cannabis while concurrently experimenting in a secure sandbox with a blockchain to track and provide guaranteed provenance for all your Cannabis supplies and products! In Malta, you can do this and so much more.


Zeta is one of most farsighted companies in Malta today. From its establishment, Zeta has recognized that we are on the threshold of one of the most dramatic transformations in history. Zeta has therefore focused on developing services that have both legacy and future application. We offer the full gamut of financial and corporate services, getting our clients to hit the ground running and providing them with every service that they might need so that they can focus on their core business without spending time and energy on ancillaries. Moreover, we have the expertise to support businesses in every one of the innovative industries mentioned above. With such a portfolio of services and expertise, and commitment to research and development Zeta can take care of your activities in Malta from the very first enquiry to the ultimate fruition of your goals.

For more information on how Zeta can assist you please contact our Business Development team on