Health For Members

How Italy’s government is trying to ban the sale of CBD oil

The Local Italy
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How Italy’s government is trying to ban the sale of CBD oil
Cannabidiol (CBD) oil products are increasingly popular worldwide, but Italy has introduced a ban on their sale without prescription. (Photo by Mladen ANTONOV / AFP)

Products containing CBD will only be legally available on prescription in Italy from this week after the government classified it as a narcotic substance, despite a European court ruling.


As of Wednesday, September 20th, oil containing cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical compound derived from cannabis plants, can only be sold in Italy in pharmacies by prescription.

The change came into force 30 days after the Italian government signed a decree which classified “CBD for oral administration” as a narcotic substance.

The Meloni administration’s move to block the sale of CBD oil, which had long been classified as a food supplement, was met with an angry reaction from representatives of the Italian CBD industry, which they said was being “sacrificed” to favour the pharmaceutical sector.

Italian cannabis industry association Canapa Sativa Italia (CSI) said the move was “not only devoid of scientific foundation, but will also have serious repercussions for Italy,” reported the industry news website Business of Cannabis.

“The sale will now require a rigorous system of registration as a drug with the health ministry, a procedure absolutely unsuitable for a substance without risks such as CBD,” the organisation said.

Opposition politicians described the latest move to block the sale of CBD as “ideological” and “grotesque, if not criminal”.

Many pointed out how it was contrary to a World Health Organisation recommendation not to classify CBD as a controlled substance, and the European Commission’s statement in 2020 that CBD was not considered a narcotic drug under European law.

This followed a 2020 European Court of Justice ruling that products like CBD oil shouldn’t be considered narcotics as, “according to the current state of scientific knowledge,” they “do not appear to have any psychotropic effect or any harmful effect on human health.”

Oils and other edible products containing CBD are legally available without prescription across most of the European Union, though laws vary by country.

The sale of pure CBD oil is legal across most of the EU, though many countries have restrictions on products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the hemp molecule with psychoactive effects. (Photo by FRED TANNEAU / AFP)


Elisabetta Biavati, president of the Medical Cannabis Patients Association and author of an open letter to Health Minister Orazio Schillaci, said people in Italy who use CBD to relieve pain, anxiety or insomnia will be penalised by the government’s stance.

“Doctors are generally very reluctant to fill out this prescription because, due to cultural training, they tend to view cannabidiol as a drug when, among other things, it has no narcotic effect in itself,” she told newspaper La Stampa.

Patients in Italy would be left with two options: paying for a private prescription, or turning to the black market, she said, unless they were able to buy the product from neighbouring countries.

“In France, Switzerland or Slovenia, CBD is considered a simple supplement, with protections for the end consumer, as could also be put in place in Italy,” she said.

Italian hemp federation Federcanapa pointed out that the government will not be able to prevent the “free circulation” of CBD products from other European countries, meaning the law would be a blow only to Italian producers.


The CSI said it was calling for a “revision of the decree” and a “working table based on scientific evidence” to address the issue.

The government’s move to block the production of CBD in Italy came after an Italian court in February overturned what it called an “absurdly restrictive” decree which aimed to classify hemp leaves and flowers as narcotics, amid a broader push by leading politicians to clamp down on ‘cannabis light’.


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