Vota La Cannabis! – Italy Gets Ready to Vote on Cannabis Reform and Possible Legalization
The weed bandwagon is moving swiftly, and more countries within and outside Europe are joining the trend. Italians are not left behind. In the coming months, Italy may join the list of countries with total or partial cannabis decriminalization reforms. The majority of registered voters have come around to create a pro-cannabis referendum. This referendum, if approved, would legalize the use, sales, and possession of cannabis for medical and recreational consumption in Italy.
This initiative is Italy’s likely chance of turning its archaic criminal laws around. According to Sondaggi Bidimedia, an online pollster, at least 57% of residents are expected to back the initiative.
Medical Cannabis was legalized in 2013 for critical medical conditions. Since then, the country has grown very large amounts of marijuana in pharmaceutical facilities. Interestingly, the government has not modified or added more reforms to the 2013 medical cannabis legislation.
The existing laws mandate that patients try all available conventional medicines before registering under the medical cannabis program. The conditions that can be managed with cannabis treatments include chronic pain, glaucoma, spinal cord injuries, chemotherapy-induced symptoms (nausea and vomit), multiple sclerosis, and anorexia.
Many eligible patients have gotten relief from the prescribed treatments; however, some could not afford the drugs due to their high cost and limited availability. To solve this problem, the government tasked the army with setting up cannabis farms in Florence to supply at least 100kg of cannabis annually. The government also gave operators in the private sector authority to provide more supply. The Bio Hemp Farming company is the first private company to receive a license to produce medical marijuana to ramp up supply.
Currently, there are multiple products available to medical patients in Italy, all produced at specialized and licensed cannabis farms. The government has successfully made medical cannabis widely available to residents at cost-effective prices.
Organized by pro-cannabis parties and organizations, the details of this referendum cut across the various regions in Italy before mid-2022. If it seeks to legalize the personal cultivation of cannabis by registered participants, it would also end fines attached to personal use of recreational cannabis.
As of the time of writing, the document has been appended by over 600,000 registered voters in the country. Meaning that it has met the minimum required signatures needed to pass a Nationwide referendum (at least 500,000 digital signatures are required within duration to move an initiative to the ballots).
This process is similar to the voter’s initiatives/measures for approving cannabis legislation during the United States election. At least 18 states have implemented their cannabis reforms through this medium.
Unlike previous attempts launched to campaign for better and progressive laws, this ballot initiative could push Italy over the cusp of cannabis decriminalization. The pro-cannabis alliance is also directly working on a measure that would modify the country’s fining parameters for non-violent and other minor cannabis-related offenses.
The success of this initiative can be attributed to the digitalization of the ballot process a few weeks before the campaign went into full gear. In the past, both sides were required to sign petitions in person; however, the adoption of a digitized system for this initiative showed more people got involved and provided their signatures.
The measure will not necessarily legalize marijuana per se, and it will modify some sections in the law that strictly punishes offenders. At least six million Italians have the habit of smoking recreational cannabis despite it being legal, and about 49% of the adult population support the use of soft drugs. With the Referendum Cannabis Legale, these people will have an easier time engaging in their habits without the massive fear of facing harsh sentences if caught.
Some of the major modifications proposed by the initiative are:
Reduction of severe punishments for minor offenses relating to the production and use of cannabis.
Authorization to grow up to four cannabis plants for personal use.
Equipment of drug addicts with socially acceptable jobs, canceling out the usual prison sentences.
Increase in punishments for offenses that go against established medical and research authorities.
Italy’s cannabis reforms could ignite the fire beneath Europe’s weed market. Looking at the blueprints provided by the US on the Canadian cannabis reforms, Italy is in for multiple economic upgrades if they legalize cannabis.
According to Piero David, a researcher at the National Research Council, Italy’s illegal recreational market is worth about 8 billion euros, which means that criminal gangs dominate the scene and generate huge sums annually. With proper reforms, the government can reduce local and foreign criminal gangs in the industry. With this, the legal recreational industry could be worth about 14 billion euros in the first of operations. The government would also save more with lesser trials and prison sentences.
Italy would also be in the position to take a huge stake in Europe’s cannabis stock market. For instance, Canada gained a stock market edge in the global cannabis market in 2018 when it legalized adult-use weed. If Italy becomes the first European nation to legalize the private use of recreational cannabis openly, it would have an advantage over the other European cannabis markets.
The referendum would create more jobs and open up the production niche for growers around the country. The new industry will create at least 30,000 new jobs, and this number is expected to rise significantly in the subsequent years after legalization.
Things are looking up for Italy’s economy and its residents. Cannabis users and growers will finally be free enough to breathe in and relax while they go about their business cultivating weed and using it. As mentioned earlier, this referendum will not fully legalize recreational use. Instead, it would minimize the offenses and pave a path to stop the decriminalization of the drug. Within the next decade, prepare to see legal cannabis coffee shops and restaurants lining the streets of Italy. Citizens only have to come out en masse to vote the referendum into law.
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