Cannabis culture in Malta has long been strong, albeit hidden underground – but Malta’s historic move to regulate the plant has resulted in a huge surge in the online community.
Decades of people dragged through the court systems for their personal weed use had taught the island’s cannabis smokers and smokers to generally be very careful about their use and not to be “hot” in public for fear that the police can pounce on you.
And everyone has important examples of being personally affected or watching their friends being torn apart by the judiciary. I always think of two close friends of mine who years ago were caught rolling a joint in their car on the side of the road in Gżira.
You went through regular piss tests and humiliating courtroom sessions for six years, and what for?
Nothing but them, losing confidence in the judicial system – and still making a few moves whenever they knew they could get it in the timeframe before their next drug test.
Malta’s monumental cannabis law changes in December made headlines around the world – but you only need to check your local social media to really see the difference Parliament has made in Malta’s 4/20 culture.
One of the most important online channels for the cannabis community is the Facebook group Legalize It, Malta! (Full disclosure – the author is an administrator of this group).
With over 15,000 members, this was the most public and open group when it comes to local cannabis. The always relatively active group has exploded in activity in recent months, with more and more people telling their own personal stories and sharing the traumatic experiences they have had in the past under the now redundant prohibitive laws.
For the first time in the island’s history, cannabis users are talking about what the plant means in their lives and, frankly, it’s nice to see. It wasn’t that long ago that the same people avoided attending public rallies calling for legalization – even if they believed it strongly – because they knew the police nearby had plainclothes policemen who their faces shot.
After years of stigma and misinformation, it has been very difficult for many regular cannabis users to even publicly show their support for the plant. And this internal battle between personal convictions and social evaluation leads to serious fears for many users for years.
Now it’s a slightly different story, however.
From tips on how to grow the hottest buds, to people sharing their joint early morning before jogging on Coast Road, to artists showing off their daily inspiration, Malta’s cannabis community is more mutually supportive than ever – and the memes aren’t too bad.
After years of feeling condemned for using cannabis and suddenly realizing that they are part of a country that is the world leader in cannabis regulation, Malta’s users have made up for lost time and shared their personal experiences with cannabis from the past – be it that they were arrested and imprisoned, at that point they unexpectedly found a good quality product.
Users are also organizing like never before – when a group of fundamentalists set up a booth to collect signatures as part of a petition to repeal Malta’s new cannabis laws, hundreds of users were able to share information about it and the troops against those efforts.
People are also ready to help others who may not be very knowledgeable about the law, making sure that users are following the legal guidelines and not getting into trouble.
But it’s not all seriousness – a recent discussion of the nibbles people like to eat while high resulted in some, say, unique foodie combinations being revealed in public for the first time.
“Baby pasta with Bovril, butter and Parmesan – I love it,” said a man next to a love heart emoji.
Best of all, it didn’t bother anyone – with Malta’s government making it clear that cannabis users like other minorities on the island deserve protection, the estimated 40,000 smokers finally feel safe enough to be themselves in public – with no legal consequences.
As a cannabis user, do you feel better protected as the island has regulated personal use of the plant?
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Johnathan is interested in the strange, wonderful, and sometimes dark realities that late capitalist society imposes on all of us. He also likes food and music. Follow him on Instagram @supreofficialmt and send him news, food and music stories [email protected]