Italy and it’s referendum on decriminalising cannabis

Italy and it’s referendum on decriminalising cannabis

A referendum campaign in Italy has gathered over 500,000 signatures in under a week meaning Italy may hold a referendum on decriminalising cannabis next year.

In Italy, a popular referendum can be called if a petition secures over 500,000 signatures before the September 30 deadline. Campaigners from several pro-cannabis organisations and political parties managed to gather 500,000 in one week. If the public votes to decriminalise then it would mean the purchase, sale and cultivation of the drug will become legal under Italian law.

The referendum would seek to amend a 1990 law that makes cannabis sales punishable with two to six months in prison. It also makes possession punishable with the suspension of driving licences. Although Italy initially decriminalised recreational cannabis in 1993, a 2006 law introduced penalties on consumers and tripled prison sentences until it was altered in 2014.

Under current law, consumers can be fined and have their personal documents such as a driving licence suspended.

The campaigners state that legalising cannabis could create thousands of new jobs and increase tax revenue for the state.

Referendum success
If it is successful, the Supreme Court of Cassation will verify the legitimacy of all signatures while the Constitutional Court ensures the referendum question is in line with the Italian constitution. If all the signatures are validated then the president of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, can establish a date for the referendum. Italian citizens may vote yes to remove the article of narcotic law that criminalise cannabis cultivation for personal use and the penalties for possession.

If it is approved then Italy would become the fourth EU member state to legalise along with Portugal, Czech Republic and Estonia. Italy was one of the first states to legalise medical cannabis in 2007.

The campaigners wrote on their Facebook page: “More than 500,000 online signatures in just a week for the #ReferendumCannabis. We celebrate them by thanking you one by one because this is a first and not just in Italy.”

“But now the race continues, to secure this finish line we have very few days to collect many more. So with a smile, we keep sharing, explaining, taking to the streets, discussing because we know exactly what we want: legal cannabis and Italy free from the mafia.”

It is estimated that around 6 million Italians use cannabis. The European Drug Report stated around 1.8 percent of adults in the European Union used cannabis daily. A recent poll has also shown that 47.8 percent of those who participated are in favour of legalising cannabis in Italy.

Divorce and abortion legalisation in Italy was also achieved through the referendum process.Cannabis cultivation
Earlier this month, it was announced that Italy could legalise the cultivation of up to four cannabis plants at home as part of reforms approved by the Lower House’s Justice Committee. While it legalised small scale cultivation, the penalties for selling may increase from six to ten years.

Speaking with cannabis news about the prospect of cultivation in the home being legalised, Guido Silvestri, a board member for Volt Italia explains the reality of medical cannabis in Italy. Volt is a pan-European party that supports cannabis legalisation in all 30 countries where it is active.

“In principle in Italy, since 2006, doctors have been able to prescribe magisterial preparations containing cannabis-based active substances for medical use. The practice is unfortunately very different and cumbersome for patients.”

“Doctor is never obliged to prescribe this therapy and many refuse even to consider cannabis as a therapeutic option because they do not know it. Even when the patient finds one of the few pharmacies ready to prepare cannabis (only 600 out of 19,000 total in Italy), they will likely experience the continuous cannabis shortage linked to very high demand and little supply.”

He added: “Many patients are therefore forced to buy cannabis on the illegal market or to self-cultivate it, with the risk of criminal investigation and trial, or administrative sanctions. In September, a proposal of law to decriminalise the home cultivation of a limited number of plants was eventually approved by a commission of the Parliament.

He explains that there is already a backlash to the proposals to legalise: “Prohibitionist politicians have announced an avalanche of amendments to immediately and definitively crush the proposal. At this point, about a year and a half after the dissolution of the Houses, there is a high risk that Parliament will not be able to approve a text definitively, leaving patients unprotected and 6 million cannabis consumers in the hands of the Mafia.”

Guido commented on the petition: “Associations like Meglio Legale, Antigone, “Luca Coscioni”, together with few small and new parties, like Volt, Possibile, that supported cannabis legalisation in Italy, decided to try to collect the 500,000 signatures needed to set a referendum that eliminates the crime of cultivation and cancels administrative sanctions. For the first time in Italy, it is possible to collect signatures digitally; this is an innovation introduced only a few weeks ago.”

He concluded: “This is likely the consequence of the strong potential of the digital signature and the large distance between the sentiment of the population and the perception of the traditional political parties that seat in the parliament. The Italian population will eventually have the possibility to be informed and vote on cannabis based on facts and not old ideologies.”

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