Jun 23, 2016 9:15 AM

Italy May Become Next EU Country to Legalize Cannabis

Last month, the Italian parliament heard a marijuana legalization proposal drafted by Cannabis Legale, a parliamentary intergroup that includes more than two hundred deputies and senators. How have the Italian lawmakers met this proposal and what are chances that the country legalizes cannabis in the near future?

Cannabis Legale's proposal included matters concerning cannabis possession, sales, and consumption by adults for therapeutic use. According to the proposal, after completing a special authorization process, Italians would have a right to possess fifteen grams of marijuana, carry five grams of weed, and grow up to five plants for personal use. However, Italians could not smoke marijuana in public or while driving. Moreover, the proposal also allows marijuana growers to establish non-commercial social clubs with up to 50 members and 250 plants. Commercial sales would be under the control of the country while cannabis export and import would be strictly prohibited.

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Though the proposal was unveiled a year ago, the parliament hearing was delayed because of the upcoming election and a referendum on constitutional reforms. Ultimately, the proposal hearing took place on May 26; most experts welcomed the event.

Some of them like Patrizio Gonnella, president of human rights association Antigone, find the present drug laws outdated and full of controversies. Riccardo De Facci, head of CNCA, expressed hope that new marijuana legislation would improve the general welfare. Moreover, most experts came to the conclusion that Italy should desist from the implementation of accessory punishments, which include the suspension of weapon permits, passports, and driver licenses.

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Positive human rights obligations are an essential part of the process of cannabis legalization. Usually, the debates over this issue center on a certain set of obligations such as protecting citizens, stopping criminal activity, and keeping the public healthy.

However, not everyone present at the hearing supported the legalization proposal. Some experts were concerned about the increased risk of car accidents and the number of patients with mental disorders because of the higher THC content in hybrid cannabis strains.

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The recreational and medical usage of marijuana has already been legalized in more than 20 states, including Colorado and Washington. However, the situation is not as good as we expected.

In contrast, a strong supporting argument was expressed by Ferdinando Offria, a professor of economics at Messina University, who estimated that marijuana legalization could bring additional $8 billion in taxes and save millions of euro the country spends on marijuana repression annually.

Other pro-legalization arguments that may shift the politicians' attitude towards cannabis include the country's debt of €2.17 trillion, which is equal to 132 percent of Italy’s GDP, and the local mafia that puts in their pockets an estimated €30 billion of marijuana profits per year.

The proposal managed to get support from approximately 25 percent of the members of the Italian parliament, mostly from the left and center-left parties, as well as Forza Italia and the center-right parties. However, other parties, including conservative parties and the far-right Northern League, are still in opposition to the proposal.

Whether the majority of members of the parliament will vote for the proposal is still unknown, as the discussion is continued behind closed doors. The official debate on this proposal is scheduled for June 27, and we hope that this day will become a turning point for marijuana legalization in Italy.

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