Italy Moves Toward Legalizing Cannabis

Italy took its first official step toward full legalization of pot on Wednesday, leading Europe in what would be a groundbreaking change for the continent.


The Intergrupo Parlamentare Cannabis Legale, a cross-party committee of lawmakers, agreed on a provisional text to legalize the consumption, growing, production and sale of cannabis under certain conditions. The text was signed by 218 members of parliament, and not just the usual backers of such measures.

Among the backers were members of the Five Star Movement, the Greens, and most surprisingly, a large number of lawmakers from Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party, including the vice president of the Chamber of Deputies Roberto Giachetti.

The group’s manifesto states: “We think that in Europe and in Italy it makes sense to work to follow the example of countries that first switched to a system of full legal regulation of the production, sale and consumption of cannabis, adapting its features to our social and legal context.”

The text, which now moves to Parliament, would allow Italians to grow cannabis at home or as members of “Cannabis clubs” where a maximum of 50 people could cultivate it as a group and then share the product, with a strict prohibition on selling to the general public.

However, the text also goes further and would make cannabis state controlled, meaning the government would regulate the sale of licenses to produce and distribute cannabis.

The rationale behind the proposal is that the full legalization of cannabis would let the state regulate the trade, thus cashing in big tax money, while also saving on what it currently spends to fight trafficking.

The national Antimafia agency has denounced the current drug policy in a recent report as a failure.

There are opponents, however.

Matteo Salvini, MEP and leader of the Northern League, a far right party with broad support, said he opposed the measure. He said he didn’t oppose legalizing prostitution, because it does no harm, “which is not the case with cannabis.”

However, the group in charge of the text also commissioned a poll conducted by Ipsos, which showed that 60 percent of the population was in favor of legalizing pot.

In Europe, some countries like Spain or Portugal have decriminalized the consumption of cannabis while in the Netherlands, the famous “coffee shops” make it seem like cannabis is legal, yet it actually is not.

The coffee shops are still technically illegally getting the product, even though it is tolerated by the Dutch government. In recent years, Uruguay and several U.S. states have led the way to fully legalize, spurring Italy to move in Europe.

In the annual report of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction last month, its chief Wolfgang Gotz said that in Europe,  he “did not know any government, or parliamentary majority backing a government, that is currently seriously discussing cannabis legalization or regulation in a different way.”

Now, perhaps, he knows of more than 200 Italian lawmakers determined to see the status of cannabis change in Europe.