In a landmark verdict Italy’s Supreme Court ruled just before Christmas that “growing small amounts of cannabis domestically for the exclusive use of the grower” is no longer a criminal offense in the country.
The ruling followed an appeal by a man who was facing criminal charges for having two marijuana plants he’d grown at home.
Cultivation and sales of marijuana has been illegal under legislation dating back to the 90s but inconsistent court decisions since then have caused confusion around the law.
The latest of these came only a few weeks ago when Italy's parliament voted to legalize the production and sale at tobacconists and other specialist stores of a weaker form of cannabis dubbed “cannabis light”, only for the Italian Senate to block the legislation a few days later.
It may be that with this newest legislation involving growing small amounts of cannabis for personal use there is also further legal yo-yoing still to come, as the details of the Supreme Court’s ruling have not yet been disclosed and it could take weeks or months for a more official and detailed ruling to be released.
For example, the question of what constitutes a “small-scale cultivation” still remains. Is having three plants legal but four not?
It isn’t clear yet either whether the Supreme Court’s ruling distinguishes between cannabis plants that are referred to as hemp or as marijuana.
The first is most commonly associated with CBD oil and its many other uses whereas the latter is known for having more than 0.3 percent of the THC compound that can induce psychotropic and euphoric effects when smoked or ingested.
Aside from being a complex matter to fully understand, cannabis legislation is also a highly divisive issue in Italy's political sphere.
Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right League Party and former Interior Minister recently said “drugs cause harm, forget about growing them or buying them in shops”.
For others such as Matteo Mantero, a senator from the co-ruling 5-Star Movement, “the cassation has opened the way, now it’s up to us”.
So whether it’s buying it, growing it or smoking it, the truth remains that no cannabis legislation is quite set in stone yet for the average Joe to safely (and more importantly legally) get involved with it.
As senator Maurizio Gasparri of Forza Italia put it, “the same court of cassation has recently issued quite different sentences, which cut off the trade in the so-called cannabis light. So we’ll first have to understand well what has been written in law”.