Italy relaxes cannabis penalties

Italy's Constitutional Court on Wednesday struck down an anti-drug law from 2006 that imposed tough sentencing for the sale and possession of cannabis, putting it on the same level as heroin and cocaine.

Italy relaxes cannabis penalties
Sentences in Italy for the sale and possession of cannabis range between two and six years. Photo: Martin Vincent/Flickr

The court declared "illegitimate" the law, which imposed sentences of six to 20 years for trafficking in cannabis, whereas the previous law which is now back in force included sentences of between two and six years.

Leftist lawmakers and civil society representatives immediately hailed the court ruling, saying it would help ease overcrowding in Italian prisons.

The scrapping of the law could affect 10,000 detainees who are in pre-trial detention or serving time and could see a revision of their sentences and their release.

"It's a victory for everyone," said Enza Bruno Bossio, a lawmaker from the centre-left Democratic Party.

But Maurizio Gasparri, a senator from Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right Forza Italia party, said the ruling would have "devastating social consequences".

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