Italy Moves Closer To Real Cannabis Reform
4 min

Italy Moves Closer To Real Cannabis Reform

4 min

The Italian military moves forward on national medical cannabis distribution. Can legislative recreational reform be far behind?

In September, for the first time, the Italian military began distributing the cannabis it started growing this summer for medical use, to pharmacies and hospitals. Legal reform here has been moving slowly forward for the past several years. This fall, domestic distribution of locally grown cannabis, albeit only for the medical market, finally became reality.

The more tantalizing question, however, is one that is on the minds of not only Italians, but also those who have been watching how the overall issue of regulation will proceed here. Up for a vote this summer, the Italian legislature introduced a bill not only decriminalizing recreational use, but also potentially laying the groundwork for a real recreational industry. The bill was delayed until this fall, although bill watchers expect passage this year.

While Italy has long been considered a laggard in drug normalization policy, the much awaited domestic distribution of medical cannabis could also signal a fairly dramatic forward move not only on the medical front – but recreational use as well. That is pretty shocking to just about everyone in the legalization movement globally. What is even more exciting, is that the cannabis reform now being considered here could certainly influence if not push forward reform across Europe.


Medical Marijuana

Earlier this summer, when Italian politicians introduced their bill, it got global attention. It clearly decriminalizes recreational use – à la Germany – except it also goes quite a bit further. The legislation currently in the national legislature decriminalizes up to 15 grams of cannabis for personal use at home, 5 grams outside of it, and legalizes small grows (up to five plants) for personal use.

More tantalizingly, the government would also legally allow the creation of cannabis clubs (that have operated here in the shadows to date), would allow them to have up to 50 members and would also create the ability to license companies to produce and sell cannabis.

The idea of cannabis reform continues to grow in popularity – both for medical use, and to regulate a recreational industry that has long been in the hands of organized crime. 73% of the Italian public support cannabis reform. 83% say they find the current laws to control drugs ineffective. The idea of defunding drug syndicates in Italy is also an appealing idea here to policy makers. They view it as a way to defeat the mafia and as a major strike to destroy the funding for terror activities, including those conducted by ISIS.

For a country where the debt is 33% higher than its GDP, the tens of billions of euros a year drug trade that flows through the country untaxed, is also highly compelling.


For precisely the reasons that legalization proponents are supportive of the measure – specifically that it would move Italy firmly into the reform camp, there are still plenty of people who oppose the bill and have, even in the legislature, fought to derail its passage. The bill now has over 1,300 amendments and has still not passed.

Cannabis Vatican

“We are absolutely opposed to this legislation, to the message it puts across: that anyone can freely smoke a spliff,” said prominent opponent Maurizio Lupi.

Apparently the Pope is also not a fan.

This is also not the first time Italy has tried to legalize pot. Similar legislation was introduced last year, only to stall out. That said, just like recreational reform everywhere, it is clearly moving forward, even if more slowly than hoped for.


With local growing underway, as well as national distribution, the Italians have jump-frogged Germany and in fact every other country in Europe right now involved on the cannabis reform front. A domestic, regulated industry, even if focussed first on medical, creates an infrastructure for other reforms to take place – which the still pending national bill clearly recognizes.

Medical cannabis italy

Medical reform on an institutional scale, resets the conversation about recreational use on a couple of fronts, starting with the allowance of home grow for both sick patients and, as is the case in both Italy and Germany, small time recreational users who are willing to grow their stash at home. While the German government, at least at the federal level, has not shown the same acceptance as the Italians in permitting domestic home grow, certain municipalities, starting with Bremen in the north of the country, have moved in exactly the same direction. Unlike Germany, however, which is likely to incorporate medical users under national healthcare next year, but no more, the Italians appear to be making the inevitable jump to incorporate recreational use as medical use goes into wide-spread distribution here.


Cannabis in Europe

What has gotten the attention of drug advocates globally is the way that Italy is moving forward. Clearly the reform the Italians are now considering is a “Colorado-style” movement towards legalization that so far has been off the table, almost completely at the national levels in every other European parliament, starting with Germany. It could be that the Italian legislation, stalled repeatedly as it has been, could in fact be the first domino to push the end of prohibition across Europe.

When Italy passes its legislation, it will put more pressure on everyone, starting with Germany, but not limited there, to finally push forward on establishing a regulated recreational drug industry that has been chomping at the bits, certainly since Colorado and Washington State launched very lucrative markets in 2014. This is especially true given the fact that Canada will in all likelihood legalize recreational use next year. This is even more compelling because right now, Canada is also likely to be the go-to exporter for medical supplies as more and more European countries allow their citizens real medical access.

As one of the most valuable cash crops on the planet, certainly when bound for a recreational market, it is very likely as a result, that real cannabis reform could be much more widespread across Europe by 2020. Tax revenue, if nothing else, particularly in a time when other industries everywhere are struggling, not to mention the jobs the industry can clearly create, is far more compelling than the status quo.

It is entirely possible that the much awaited reform in Italy will stall for a few more months, or even as much as a year. But it is now at least on the table. And as a result, all eyes are looking to the south of Europe, as a leader on a policy change that is overdue everywhere.


  Guest Writer  

Written by: Guest Writer
Occasionally we have guest writers contribute to our blog here at Zamnesia. They come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, making their knowledge invaluable.

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Steven Voser
Steven Voser
Steven Voser is an independent cannabis journalist with over 6 years of experience writing about all things weed; how to grow it, how best to enjoy it, and the booming industry and murky legal landscape surrounding it.
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