Italy may become the next country to legally regulate marijuana, with a legislative proposal expected to be debated in Italy’s Chamber of Deputies on Monday, July 25.
“Italy has rarely if ever provided leadership in Europe on drug policy reform,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the US-based Drug Policy Alliance, “which is why this bill, if it becomes law, will be of great significance not just within Italy but regionally and even globally. With five more U.S. states preparing to vote on marijuana legalization on November 8, and Canada poised to legalize marijuana next year, Italy could well provide the catalyst that Europe needs to move forward in ending marijuana prohibition.”
The bill would decriminalize the possession of 15 grams of marijuana for recreational use at home, and 5 grams for use outside of the home. Furthermore, it would allow the cultivation of up to 5 plants for personal use, and authorize cannabis clubs for up to 50 members. In terms of distribution, the Italian government would grant licenses for the production and sale of marijuana inside national territory. The bill prohibits import and export of marijuana, public use of marijuana, and driving under the influence.
The bill proposal was drafted by the Inter-gruppo Parlamentare Cannabis Legale, a cross-party committee of senators and representatives organized by Senator Benedetto Della Vedova, and was signed by 294 representatives – a third of the Parliament – last September. Signatures came from members of liberal and conservative parties, demonstrating broad support for the bill across the political spectrum. Major figures outside the parliament, including Francesco Curcio and Franco Roberti, the Chief Prosecutors of the Anti-Mafia and Anti-Terrorism Offices, have also endorsed the bill.
“Prohibitionist policies have failed in their impossible aim to eliminate the use of drugs and have not reduced the illegal market for cannabis. Instead, organized crime has controlled the whole chain: production, processing and sales. By legalizing cannabis, the State would cut off substantial income from organized crime and transfer the illegal profits to the State budget,” said Senator Della Vedova.
Marijuana reform enjoys broad support among Italian citizens. According to a recent survey by IPSOS Public Affairs, 60% of Italian citizens agree that the country’s parliament should consider policy alternatives to the current prohibition regime, and 83% think that the current laws prohibiting marijuana consumption are inefficient. Furthermore, over 70% of Italians believe that the country should seek to implement a model of marijuana regulation similar to that of Colorado.
Marco Perduca, coordinator of Legalizziamo! (Let’s legalize!)—a campaign to collect 50,000 Italian voters’ signatures on a bill to legalize marijuana—welcomed the development: “We are asking Italians to take part in the legislative process with a proposal to strengthen and complement what Parliament is discussing. We welcome their compromise text but we believe that Italy is ready for an even more radical reform on illicit substances.”
In recent years, marijuana reform has gained unprecedented momentum across the world. In the United States, medical marijuana has been legalized in 25 states, while Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, D.C. legalized marijuana for non-medical use. Jamaica has enacted wide-ranging marijuana decriminalization; Colombia and Puerto Rico issued executive orders legalizing medical marijuana; Chile allows for the cultivation of marijuana for medical use; and medical marijuana initiatives are being debated in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. In 2013, Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize marijuana on a national level, and Canada’s governing Liberal Party has promised to do the same. If Italy passes the bill currently under consideration, it would become the first European country to legalize marijuana for non-medical use.