• 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But the law was repealed last year and political opinion surrounding cannabis legalization is quickly changing too.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
Italy hosts first Down's Syndrome 'Olympics'
The athletes taking part are dubbed T21s, named after the most common form of Down's Syndrome, trisomy 21. Photo: AFP

The roar from the stands in Florence could not have been louder if it had been stars Usain Bolt or Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce on the track.

Why Milan could be Europe's post-Brexit financial hub
Milan is vying to be Europe's post-Brexit financial and business hub. Photo: Melanie Bowman

Milan has also joined the race among European cities to pick up the post-Brexit spoils should London’s financial institutions choose to shift their operations elsewhere. But is it a viable contender?

Ekberg wannabe says Trevi dip was a 'homage to Rome'
Delilah Jay just before she waded into Rome's Trevi Fountain on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Delilah Jay

“I love Rome, I love Fellini and I love Ekberg – I’ve had so many comments on my Facebook page saying I look very much like her.”

Venice to build new bridge in memory of Bataclan victim
28-year-old student Valeria Solesin was the only Italian victim of the Paris terrorist attacks. Photo: Pierre Teyssot / AFP

Venice, the so-called 'city of bridges', is set to build one more, in honour of the only Italian victim of last November's Paris terrorist attacks.

Italy fears 'Calais-style' camps as migrant backlog worsens
There are 135,000 people waiting in Italian reception centres. Photo: Giovanni Isolino/AFP

Italy is scrambling to find extra places for incoming migrants amid fears the failure of a European relocation plan may result in mass encampments.

Italy to start performing civil unions from mid-August
Italy became the last major country in Europe to recognize same-sex civil unions in May. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Same-sex couples in Italy will finally have the chance to say “I do” from mid-August onwards, Italy's Interior Ministry announced on Thursday.

Italian mayor says sorry for Keita Balde racism
Keita Balde, a Senegalese born in Spain, is one of several black players in Italy's Serie A to have faced racist abuse in the past. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

"Sport is about passion, sharing and friendship. I'm sorry to hear, as the mayor and a sportsman, that some people last night embarrassed the whole city and, in particular, the real fans at the stadium."

Rescue boats recover 17 migrant bodies off Italy
The latest arrivals take the number of migrants to have landed in Italy this year to over 80,000. Photo: Giovanni Isolino/AFP

Since 2014, more than 10,000 migrants have died or are feared to have drowned while attempting the perilous journey to Europe by sea.

Italian police find €0.5 million of artefacts in art thieves' lair
Most of the loot was more than 2,000 years old. Photo Carabinieri Caserta

Police in Terno, Campania, uncovered a spectacular hoard of over 200 stolen historical artefacts worth over €0.5 million on Wednesday, inside the lair of a local gang of art thieves.

Pavarotti's family protest Trump's use of famous aria
Luciano Pavarotti became one of the most commercially successful tenors of all time. Photo: Frederick Florin/AFP

"Nessun Dorma", which became Pavarotti's signature aria and climaxes with the words "Vincero" ("I will win"), has been played often at Trump rallies.

Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
Travel
Five crowd-free alternatives to Italy's tourist hotspots
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
Italian hotspots struggling with 'too many tourists'
Culture
Meet the Italian chef behind the world's best restaurant
Travel
Escape the heat at one of these beautiful Italian lakes
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Politics
Why the UK is now officially crazier than Italy
Culture
How you can stay cool like an ancient Roman
Lifestyle
Food for thought: fight on to save Med diet from extinction
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
From asylum seeker in Italy to organic yoghurt entrepreneur
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
Fifteen maps that tell the story of Italy
National
Why Italy might be the next big threat to the EU's future
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Politics
Post Brexit, less than a third of Italians want to leave EU
Politics
The bright side of Brexit: the 'good news' for Brits in Italy
Culture
Eight wonderful things to do in Italy in July
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
Travel
Six of the best places to visit within easy reach of Rome
British business owners in Italy feel Brexit jitters
National
How to get Italian citizenship (or at least stay forever)
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Politics
Where does Britain's exit from the EU leave Italy?
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Politics
Has the time come for Italy’s Five Star Movement to shine?
Society
Why Italy must change after young woman’s brutal murder
Politics
Is Italy's Five Star up to the challenge of running Rome?
Culture
Six of the most bizarre Italian foods everyone should try
2,559
jobs available