Columbia Care has become the first US cannabis firm to gain a license to operate in the European Union after establishing a base in Malta.

The firm has treated 750,000 patients across 10 different US states and now it plans to become a global player in the budding medicinal marijuana industry. Its first stop is the Mediterranean island of Malta.

Columbia Care has gained a license from the Maltese economic development agency, allowing it to import, export, cultivate, process, and distribute medical cannabis. It plans to use Malta as a European hub from which it can access other markets and expand its footprint.

“With a desire to realize our mission regardless of geography, we look forward to disrupting the status quo outside the U.S. and bringing our expertise to the rest of the world,” said Nicholas Vita, chief executive at Columbia Care.

Vita has led the firm since January 2013, and in that time it has grown to become America’s largest fully integrated, multi-state medical cannabis company. He pledged further expansion into Europe, South America, and Oceania going forwards after speaking to patients, medical leaders, and policymakers in all of those regions.

He hailed Malta as a key strategic access point for Europe, and the firm already has a partner called Solea Limited on the ground there. It promised that its operations in Malta will be “best in class”, containing a GMP-certified research and manufacturing facility that will produce a range of derivatives and flower strains to treat patients across Europe.

Research and development is at the heart of Columbia Care’s business strategy and it has just announced a collaboration with the NYU School of Medicine to study the efficacy of tablets high in CBD for treating epilepsy sufferers.

Last month the company was valued at $1.35 billion as it announced it has entered into a letter of intent to exclusively negotiate a business combination with Canaccord Genuity Growth Corp. Columbia Care now holds 33 licenses across 13 states and is expected to quickly build up a presence in several export markets.

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