'It is a blessing in disguise': Struggling farmers in Malta are selling land to cannabis growers

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The farming industry has been in steady decline over recent years in Malta, but marijuana could offer a way for struggling farmers to start over, wriets Calvin Hughes.

Recently, many farmers in the Mediterranean nation have been approached about selling their land to aspiring cannabis cultivators, who are laying the groundwork to enter the industry while a medical marijuana bill is set to get a third reading in the Maltese parliament.

"To be honest, it is a blessing in disguise," a farmer told Times of Malta. "For those of us who feel desperate as they are incurring losses every year, or have no one to pass their fields on to, selling our land will give us peace of mind."

And those who stay in the business will benefit from less competition as other lands shift to cultivating cannabis instead of conventional crops.

"At the same time, if a fraction of the existing 900 tumoli [a traditional Maltese form of measurement equaling roughly 3/4 of a square mile] of greenhouses is sold for the cultivation of cannabis, this will lessen competition between those who grow conventional crops in greenhouses," one farmer said.

Malcolm Borg, the head of the Center for Agriculture at the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology says for some of these farmers, the amounts they are being offered for their land is more than they will make in their remaining lifetimes working it.

But he cautions that offloading too much land could damage Malta's rural heritage and cause further dependence on foreign countries for food.

While many of the farmers who have received requests to sell their land are thankful for the potential financial security, many others have reservations about handing off their family land.

"It is very difficult to part with our land because we were born and bred there. It is part of who we are," said one farmer. "But no one wants to make losses and end up with no money. The farming sector has reached rock-bottom, and the only way up is to give up the land completely."

Hopefully legalizing medical marijuana will give those struggling farmers as well as the Maltese economy a shot in the arm.

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