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Law Italy


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Italy Moves toward Legalising Cannabis… for Everyone

The Italian Parliament has established an intergroup on the legalisation of cannabis following calls to address the need for its decriminalisation and shortages of medical cannabis. More than 50 members of Parliament already have applied to join the intergroup, mainly from the left. For now, no one from the centre-right has asked to participate. The impetus behind this movement is multifaceted but at the forefront is Walter de Benedetto, a patient with rheumatoid arthritis potentially facing prison for growing nine marijuana plants to assuage his pain. The movement is supported by 25,000 signatures to date and aims to rekindle the 2016 citizens’ initiative to legalise cannabis.

Italy and other Member States allow the growing of hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) stemming from seeds listed on the EU’s Common Catalogue of Varieties of Agricultural Plant Species. EU subsidies are available for crops that do not exceed 0.2 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the psychotropic substance in cannabis. Italy does not require an authorisation for cultivation and does not penalise growers if their crops exceeds 0.2 percent THC as long as the production was in compliance with all legal requirements. This protection for farmers was interpreted incorrectly as extending to other operators down the supply chain, however, the Italian Supreme Court confirmed earlier this year (Corte Suprema di Cassazione 30 May 2019) that only the cultivator benefits from this immunity. The authorities may confiscate or destroy crops exceeding 0.6 percent THC, with no further consequences for the farmer.

While cultivation of hemp from EU certified seeds is legal in all 28 Member States, requirements, THC limits, and permitted purposes differ from country to country. Hemp and its derivatives can be used in food and cosmetics in Italy as long as the applicable EU and domestic laws are followed. Italian law also allows hemp and its derivatives to be used in a number of semi-finished products, such as fibre, wood chips, oils or fuels; as organic material for bioengineering for green building or as part of green manure practices; as material for bioremediation; and for certain public education or research purposes.

Since November 2015, the Italian Ministry of Health may issue permits to cultivate cannabis for medicinal purposes with a THC content in excess of 0.2 percent. Licensed cultivators deliver the harvest to the Ministry. Pharmacies then purchase it and turn it into an active substance or vegetal preparation. Doctors can issue a prescription for herbal cannabis to support the original treatment and set out the type, the amount, and the method of consumption for each patient, which is either decoction or vaporising. Eligible conditions primarily are spasticity associated with pain, chronic pain, nausea from chemotherapy or HIV treatments, loss of appetite from cancer or AIDS, glaucoma, and Gilles de la Tourette syndrome. According to Walter de Benedetto, the current system fails to provide him with sufficient quantities to alleviate his pain, as Italy struggles to keep up with increasing demand, despite also importing.

Under the citizens’ proposal, it would be legal to grow up to ten female plants for personal consumption (more than five would require notification of the authorities); to set up non-profit cannabis social clubs associations of up to 100 members that can each grow five plants each; and to sell cannabis as long as the name and variety of cannabis used and quantity of seeds per hectare is communicated to the authorities. Products would need to be labelled with geographic origin, percentage of THC, and include a warning that “irresponsible consumption can damage health.” Access to cannabis-based medicine would be promoted to patients suffering from symptoms that respond favourably to cannabinoids.

Proponents view scheduling a parliamentary debate as the next step. According to them, the proposal will have more success under the incumbent Parliament than under its predecessor. It currently is too early to predict whether the goal will be achieved. However, hemp firmly is tangled with the peninsula’s culture and therefore likely to see further liberalisation.
Free Weed: Sicily Is No Longer Charging Patients for Medical Cannabis

Since the island of Sicily considers cannabis a tried-and-true medicine, the government will cover its costs for qualifying patients.

While the US markets for state-licensed weed struggle with high prices, high taxes, and excessive regulatory costs, medical cannabis patients in Sicily will enjoy free herb — thanks to the government.

On Tuesday, Sicily’s Health Chief, Ruggero Razza, signed a decreethat will provide medical cannabis and cannabis products — free of charge — to Sicilian patients. Sicily has socialized healthcare, so the citizens's taxes will cover the costs. The move is also expected to boost Italy’s medical marijuana market. Although exact figures for Sicily’s medical weed sales aren’t readily available, Italy as a whole sold an estimated €3.42 million ($3.79 million USD) of legal cannabis in 2019.

Italian doctors were given the right to prescribe medical cannabis in 1990, though Italy didn’t formally legalize medical cannabis until 2013. Currently, Italy’s military grows and distributes the nation’s cannabis supplies. One Italian medical marijuana strain, FM2, produces two newly discovered cannabinoids, THCP and CBDP. Researchers found that THCP may be 30 times more potent than THC, the compound primarily responsible for weed’s characteristic buzz.

Italy isn’t the first or only country to treat weed like a medicine rather than a party drug. Earlier this month, the Thai government opened a clinic that dispensed free cannabis oil to elderly patients. And, last year, Ireland’s government approved of medical cannabis being covered by insurance plans, ensuring that (at least some) patients have easier access to the plant.

In Canada, which legalized weed in 2018, medical patients can get their cannabis covered by some private insurance plans, though most policies, including the federal government’s, still won’t cover it.

So, get with the program, America. Other countries are already leagues ahead of us when it comes to medical cannabis, patient rights, and guaranteed access.
Italy’s Top Court Legalizes Home-Grown Cannabis for Personal Use
Italy’s Supreme Court has decriminalized growing small batches of cannabis at home for private use.

In a landmark ruling, Italy’s Supreme Court has decriminalized growing small batches of cannabis at home for private use.

In the latest interpretation of laws governing the growth of narcotic plants, the judges decreed that “small amounts grown domestically for the exclusive use of the grower” should be exempt from criminal prosecution.

The top court’s decision was made on December 19, but wasn’t reported by national and international media outlets until Friday, sparking contentious reactions from conservative politicians who favor prohibitions as well as calls from advocates to legalize cannabis entirely.

Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right League Party, blasted the decision as well as the widespread trade of low-strength “legal weed” or “cannabis light” in Italy, Reuters reports. Salvini has been in the midst of a crusade against the legal sale of low-potency marijuana with THC levels under 0.6 percent, which was made legal in 2016 and upheld by the parliament earlier this month.

In a statement, Salvini said:

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“Drugs cause harm, forget about growing them or buying them in shops.”
While Maurizio Gasparri, a senator with the right-wing Forza Italia party allied to the league, promised that if a center-right coalition comes to power it “will cancel the absurd verdict of the court.”

It still remains unclear what quantity would constitute “small-scale cultivation” under the law, but the ruling arose from a case where an offender was in possession of two plants.

Lucio Fiorentino, the founder of cannabis supply company Cannabidiol Distribution, told La Stampa:

“It’s the end of a nightmare … After Salvini’s witch hunt I had to fire 10 people and I lost 68 per cent of my revenues.”
Matteo Mantero, a senator from the co-ruling Five Star Movement, has been a vocal advocate of the legalization and regulation of cannabis. Mantero commented:

“The court has opened the way, now it’s up to us.”
However, the complete legalization of cannabis for recreational purposes remains an uphill battle. While some figures within the Five Star Movement generally have a liberal, hands-off approach to cannabis, other members of the movement are opposed to decriminalization. The party’s center-left and centrist coalition partners are also generally cautious in their approach to cannabis.
Inside The Italian Army’s Cannabis Grow Site

It’s a strange concept but, hey, someone’s got to grow the medical marijuana.

Italy’s English language newspaper, the Local published an account of the Italian military’s cannabis grow site in Florence.

Maureen Meehan brings us the abridged version of the article written by AFP’s Angus MacKinnon, who was lucky enough to visit the site and watch as an Italian Army colonel inspect “pristine plant buds destined to be cut and dried” for medical marijuana use.

“No, I have never tried it, and I don’t have any intention of trying it either,” said Col. Antonio Medica, who nevertheless is quite confident he is producing some really good stuff.

In one of the grow rooms, described as a cross between a science lab and a steamy greenhouse, Medica explained how he ended up producing top-grade weed for Italy’s health service.

“One of my colleagues was joking with me the other day: ‘We spent 40 years trying to stop the troops smoking it in the barracks and now we are producing it ourselves.'”
As we know, producing medical marijuana is a serious business, and the quality has to be reliable. The output from the military’s Cannabis Project Team is destined for patients, not potheads.

“Producing in this sterile, sealed environment is very important,” Medica explained. “That is the only way you can ensure a consistent product and one free from the toxic materials, particularly heavy metals like mercury, that the plants can easily absorb when grown in fields.”

The first batches of made-in-Italy pot have recently arrived in Italian pharmacies. Its production is just one of the activities of the military’s 164-year-old Chemical and Pharmaceutical Institute. The body prides itself on the fact that its cannabis was registered as a pharmaceutical product by Italy’s medicines agency in September 2015.

Naturally, it is high CBD and low in THC for Italy’s estimated 2,000-3,000 MMJ patients who use it for relief from multiple sclerosis pain, combatting nausea after chemotherapy, glaucoma and for helping to restore the appetite of anorexia and HIV patients, among other illnesses.

Italy legalized medical cannabis in 2007 but was slow to roll it out because, like so many places, doctors were reluctant to consider it an option citing uncertainty over dosage, how to administer it and what illnesses it benefitted.

“They were afraid of side effects, afraid to take the responsibility, afraid about everything,” said Pierluigi Davolio, a Florence pharmacist.

Davolio estimates that he is now dispensing around 300 cannabis preparations per year as awareness and confidence grows among doctors and patients.

He has no doubt that cannabis has its place on his shelves.

“One thing it works well for is fibromyalgia, a condition for which there is no really effective medicine,” he told the Local.

The Grow Site

With 100 plants yielding 18 pounds of final product, they plan to have four grow chambers soon and to produce around 220 pounds this year.

Medica anticipates expanding output to produce different types of medical weed as demand grows and feedback identifies which strains work best for specific conditions.

Smoking Discouraged

At the moment, MMJ patients are advised to make a cannabis tea or to vape their meds, to be sure they are ingesting the required dose.

Although health workers recognize that many will bake it in cookies or smoke the weed, Medica says they shouldn’t.

“Studies have shown that burning degrades the active ingredients and increases the risk of side effects, so that is strongly discouraged,” he said.

Italian Activists Turn In More Than Half A Million Signatures For Marijuana And Psilocybin Referendum

Italian activists on Thursday formally turned in about 630,000 signatures for a referendum to legalize the personal cultivation of marijuana and other psychoactive plants and fungi like psilocybin mushrooms.

The referendum question was first filed in September, and the reform campaign has now submitted more than half a million signatures that they hope will qualify the measure to go before the nation’s voters in early 2022. Part of the reason activists were able to gather that volume of signatures so quickly is a policy change that allowed them to collect signatures online instead of in person only.

There are still some steps in the process before the issue can be placed before voters, however.

Now that the petitions have been turned in to the Supreme Court of Cassation, the body will have 30 days to ensure that they are valid. Then the petition will be handed off to the Constitutional Court, which will will determine whether the referendum is legal and can proceed.

The latter court will look into whether the measure would conflict with the Constitution, the country’s fiscal system or international treaties to which Italy is a party. Advocates are confident that they limited the scope of the proposed reform enough to meet the legal standard.

If the courts allow the referendum to move forward, voters are expected to be given the chance to decide on the policy change sometime between April 15 and June 15.

Marco Perduca, president of the referendum committee, told Marijuana Moment that the speed with which activists were able to collect so many signatures “confirms that cannabis is extremely popular in Italy and that people are fed up with criminal sanctions for actions that do not harm anybody.”

“This referendum is one step in a long march started many years ago that has allowed the Italian antiprohibitionist movement to grow and become more political year after year,” Perduca, who previously served as an Italian senator and is a member of the Associazione Luca Coscioni, said. “So, it’s extraordinary but not surprising.”

The measure is fairly unique compared to U.S. ballot initiatives that have been enacted. The Italian proposal would fully end the criminalization of growing of cannabis but it would maintain a current decriminalized fine on possessing and using it.

“A national referendum can only eliminate parts of a law so we had to find the best possible way to take away what could have been taken away” without the measure becoming too complicated and risking its invalidation by the courts, Perduca said.

“The fine will be applicable, but in the new scenario of course the priority of pursuing a conduct that is the result of a legal act will diminish,” he said, arguing that police would be strongly disincentivized to go after people who possess marijuana that they legally grow.

Under the proposal, drug processing would also remain criminalized. And that means things like hashish would continue to be prohibited because it takes a degree of manufacturing to create the product. There would also be no system of legal and regulated cannabis sales.

“Years of prohibition have proved unsuccessful,” Riccardo Magi, a member of the Chamber of Deputies and president of + Europe, told il Fatto Quotidiano. “This did not harm the mafias that control the drug market, nor have they reduced the circulation of drugs.”

Activists initially faced a September 30 deadline to turn in signatures to make next year’s referendum, but complications related to the processing of signatures at the local level led to an extension being granted.

Should the referendum make the ballot, a simple majority would be required to have it enacted.

Separately, Italy’s House Justice Committee advanced a separate reform last month that would decriminalize small-scale home cultivation of marijuana for personal use.

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