Italy Removes Cannabis From Category Of Hardest Drugs

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Italy Removes Cannabis From Category Of Hardest Drugs

Italy has just reclassified cannabis - it is no longer in the same class of hard drugs such as heroine. The move will drastically reduce prison sentences.

Italy’s constitutional court as overruled a drug law that put cannabis in the same class as heroin. The law, which was created in 2006 under Silvio Berlusconi’s administration, tripled the sentencing for the cultivation, sale and possession of cannabis. It changed sentencing for the sale and production of cannabis from 2-6 years jail time, to 6-20 years.

According to prison rights group Antigone, the law was the primary cause of Italy’s prison overcrowding problem – with over 40% of the prison population being there on drug charges. The prison overcrowding has gotten so bad in Italy that in January 2013, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that it violated basic human rights. There are some 62,000 inmates held in cells only designed for 48,000.

An illegitimate law

The constitutional court described the law created under Berlusconi as “illegitimate”, and the drug law surrounding cannabis has been reverted back to its much less severe predecessor. "The so-called drug war as conceived in North America has been lost and it's time to return to rational rules that distinguish between substances," Franco Corleone, member of Society for Reason told news agencies. It is thought that the ruling will see some 10,000 prisoners released as charges are quashed.

It is worth noting that neither of the laws actually prohibit the consumption of cannabis, but both make possessing it illegal.

Parties divided

The ruling has divided the dominant political parties in Italy. Alessia Morani, an MP with the centre-left Democratic Party said "The ruling puts the final word on one of the most absurd laws that parliament has ever passed in recent years". Whereas Senator Carlo Giovanardi, one of the original politicians behind the harsher laws described the overturn as "devastating choice from a scientific viewpoint and in the message it sends to young people that some drugs are less dangerous than others".

The thing is though, some drugs ARE less dangerous than others, and enforcing a blanket zero tolerance policy causes much more harm to society than good. If politicians are worried about drug perception, they should educate people on the subject, and explain what these drugs do and why they are bad. The problem is that if people like Giovanardi would actually look at the science, they would learn that their beloved wine and cigarettes are much worse than most of the drugs they deem so dangerous.