• Italy's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Is Italy about to legalize cannabis?

Patrick Browne · 28 Jul 2015, 08:38

Published: 28 Jul 2015 08:38 GMT+02:00

Under the new proposals, people over the age of 18 could cultivate up to five plants at home and growers could set up social clubs involving a maximum of 50 people and 250 plants.

The scope of such social clubs would be to provide spaces for growers to consume and share their product, but would prohibit them from profiting from the sale of cannabis.

The general sale of the drug would instead be under the control of a state monopoly that would licence dedicated shops similar to those found in The Netherlands, or the US state of Colorado, where the drug was legalized early last year.

New possession laws would allow people to store 15 grams of marijuana at home and carry around up to five grams of the drug, figures which would be higher if the marijuana was being held for medical use.

However, smoking cannabis in public would be banned, as would smoking the drug while driving.

If approved, people found violating laws would likely face fines over jail sentences – with money from fines being used to fund other state-run anti-drug programmes. 

The proposed legislation was drafted by the parliamentary intergroup, Cannabis Legale, and presented to parliament on July 15th.

Within two weeks it gained the support of over 25 percent of Italy's 946 MPs - mosty from the left and centre-left parties - but also from the centre-right and Forza Italia.

However, the far-right Northern League is firmly against the proposals, with party leader Matteo Salvini telling Ansa: “I personally am in favour of legalizing prostitution because, until proved otherwise, sex isn't bad for you, but cannabis is.”

Salvini aside, the widespread support for the draft bill seems surprising as recent legislation on drug use in Italy has often been severe.

The controversial Fini-Giovanardi law passed in 2006 removed the distinction between hard and soft drugs, meaning those found in possession of cannabis were sentenced as harshly as those found with heroin or cocaine.

But the law was repealed last year and political opinion surrounding cannabis legalization is quickly changing too.

But what is behind the change in the attitude among Italian MPs?

The shift in attitude towards legalization is largely motivated by the county's €2.17 trillion debt, which stands at 132 percent of Italy's GDP. 

Politicians hope that by legalizing cannabis use they can collect money through taxation as well as divert resources that are currently being used to fight illegal cannabis use.

A recent study published by research group lavoce.info suggested that legal cannabis use could boost Italy's GDP by between 1.30 and 2.34 percent. But more than money, legalization is also seen as a useful step in Italy's fight against the mafia.

Story continues below…

The International Business Times reported that the estimated value of the marijuana market in Italy is currently €30 billion a year  – the vast majority of which ends up lining the pockets of mafia drug cartels.

So is Italy about to legalize marijuana?

The draft bill will need to be approved by the Senate before passing to the house of deputies.

“It is a long process and lots of legislation never makes it past the first chamber," a spokesperson for the Italian parliament told The Local, adding that the speed at which a proposal could become law depends greatly on the support it received from the ruling party, and that ultimately "the government decides how long it takes."

So far at least, Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi hasn't backed the proposals, meaning cannabis shops are unlikely to be appearing in Italy any time soon.

For more news from Italy, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Patrick Browne (patrick.browne@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Why quake-hit Amatrice will never be the same again
Amatrice had been due to host its Amatriciana pasta festival this weekend. Photo: Angela Giuffrida

The Lazio town of Amatrice was the hardist-hit by Wednesday's devastating earthquake. The Local's Angela Giuffrida visited what is left of the town on Friday.

Italian flags at half mast for quake victims
More than 280 people were killed in the 6.2-magnitude earthquake that struck on August 24. Photo: Andreas Solaro /AFP

Flags flew at half mast across Italy on Saturday as the country observed a day of mourning for the victims of an earthquake that killed nearly 300 people.

Italy earthquake
Italy prepares to mourn earthquake dead
Collapsed buildings in Amatrice. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

No survivors have been found since Thursday.

Italy earthquake
Rescuers search for 15 still missing in Amatrice
A suitcase in the rubble of a collapsed home in Amatrice. Photo: Angela Giuffrida/The Local

A team of specialist rescue workers from Shanghai is searching for 15 people unaccounted for in Amatrice, the Lazio town torn apart by Wednesday's devastating earthquake.

Italy earthquake
Italy’s museums offer takings to restore quake-hit region
A damaged church in Amatrice. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Italy's museums will donate all money raised from ticket sales on Sunday to help restore cultural treasures damaged or destroyed by Wednesday’s 6.0 magnitude in central Italy.

Italy earthquake
Food the only comfort for Italy’s earthquake survivors
A refugee dines at a makeshift camp in central Italy. Photo: Mario Laporta/AFP

"Because even in these dire cases it's important to give a good meal to those who have lost everything."

Italy earthquake
In pics: Makeshift shelters house Italy's quake survivors
An earthquake victim beds down at a makeshift shelter in Amatrice. Photo: Marco Zepatella/AFP

An estimated 2,500 people have lost their homes following the 6.0 magnitude earthquake which hit central Italy on Wednesday.

Italy earthquake
Strong aftershock rattles devastated Amatrice
An aftershock measuring 4.8 struck Amatrice again on Friday morning. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

The small town of Amatrice was hit by another aftershock, measuring 4.8 in magnitude, on Friday morning, causing more damage in the centre of the town where at least 193 were killed in Wednesday’s devastating earthquake.

Italy earthquake
Three Britons among dead in Italy earthquake
Rescuers continued their search for bodies on Friday morning. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

At least eight foreigners, including three Britons, a Spanish national, a Canadian and a citizen from El Salvador, were among the 250 people killed when a powerful earthquake struck central Italy this week, officials said, as rescuers continued the grim search for corpses on Friday.

Italy earthquake
Italy earthquake death toll revised down to 241
Volunteers join rescue services in Amatrice. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

UPDATED: The death toll from a powerful earthquake in central Italy was revised downwards to 241 on Thursday but officials cautioned it could rise again as rescuers continued a grim search for corpses, as powerful aftershocks rocked the devastated area.

Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
National
Why discontented Italians could derail their economy
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Society
Keep passports safe: Typical pickpocket scams revealed
Culture
Why coffee in Italy is a culture you must taste to understand
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Society
The richest families in Florence in 1427 are still rich today
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Culture
So why do pasta-loving Italians live such long lives?
National
Italy's Renzi prepares for stormy autumn
Society
This 104-year-old just saw the sea for the first time
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
National
Should Rome give up on its 2024 Olympic dream?
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Society
The Italian doctor giving hope to thousands of migrants
Culture
Ten 'Italian' dishes that don't actually exist in Italy
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Sport
Five Italian athletes going for gold at the Rio Olympics
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Travel
Trastevere: From a fiery past to Rome’s souvenir stand
Politics
Think Trump would be a disaster? Just ask the Italians
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
National
How Brexit has helped to expose Italy’s banking malaise
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Politics
After Brexit, keep a close eye on Italy's Five Star Movement
Lifestyle
12 mistakes foreigners make when moving to Italy
National
Why Milan could be Europe's post-Brexit financial hub
Travel
Five crowd-free alternatives to Italy's tourist hotspots
National
Italian hotspots struggling with 'too many tourists'
Culture
Meet the Italian chef behind the world's best restaurant
2,496
jobs available