bandiera italiana sul balcone

Cannabis Italy: what you need to know

The consumption of cannabis is a much discussed topic, which suffers from many problems, both in the political sphere, in the cultural sphere and naturally in the legislative sphere. There are those who have been supporting battles in favor of cannabis sativa for years.

Sometimes it seems, however, that despite the scientific evidence on therapeutic cannabis, despite the fact that there are approximately six million cannabis consumers and despite the legalization of light marijuana, there is still strong resistance to the thought of legalizing cannabis and decriminalizing it.

Why and at what point are we really in Italy? In this article we will try to clarify. Here's what we'll see:

  • Cannabis in Italy in 2021
  • What the law says
  • Can cannabis be sold in Italy?
  • Can cannabis be grown in Italy?
  • Can you grow marijuana at home?
  • Can I open a cannabis social club in Italy?

light cannabis

Cannabis in Italy in 2021

In Italy the turnover from cannabis consumption revealed by ISTAT studies and data obtained from the reports of the DDA (District Anti-Mafia Directorate) which estimates the quantity of cannabis circulating in the country based on seizures, would be around 11.6 billion EUR .

And we are only talking about the one seized, which again according to the DDA is around 20% of the one actually on the market.

There are approximately six million Italian consumers of cannabis sativa, including those who use it for recreational purposes, those who are being treated with therapeutic cannabis-based treatments and those who consume light marijuana.

Of these six million, the majority use both legal cannabis, therefore with a THC content of less than 0.2%, and "normal" cannabis, which is currently only available on the black market.

A third of high school students have already used it. 58% of drug arrests involve cannabis.

It is a mass phenomenon and as Senator Matteo Mantero has stated several times, continuing to rage against the legalization of cannabis, whether due to ideology or lack of foresight, only enriches the wallets of the mafia , who in fact control it. the market.

Legalizing cannabis in Italy would mean, based on the rate, crowding out the illegal market and filling its coffers, also repaying the public debt.

Yet, there still does not seem to be a real social force pushing towards the legalization of so-called "soft drugs".

The point is to understand that cannabis sativa is a resource not only for consumers and not only for patients being treated with therapeutic cannabis. Cannabis sativa is an economic resource for everyone and to better understand what we are talking about it is enough to analyze the situation in the United States, which in a rational way was able to make a balance between costs and benefits, between advantages and disadvantages and chose to legalize the cannabis sativa.

In fact, since 2014, 15 states in the United States have decided to legalize cannabis for both recreational and medical use, while in 36 states only the use of therapeutic cannabis is possible.

Currently, over one hundred million US residents use cannabis freely. The data collected in recent years is astonishing: arrests and especially arrests of teenagers for possession and dealing of soft drugs have decreased significantly .

In 2019, the overall profit from the cultivation of cannabis and the related sale of the inflorescences was approximately 14 billion dollars with an increase of approximately 3 billion in 2020. Furthermore, more than 340,000 workers were employed in the cannabis sativa supply chain and increased by approximately 82,000 in just one year.

We are talking about an exponentially growing trend.

In addition to the economists' analysis, which would push towards the legalization of cannabis for economic reasons, the DDA also has its say in its reports.  The Anti-Mafia Directorate clearly states that the Italian prohibitionist policy has spent many resources to obtain unsatisfactory results and has in fact failed.

The DDA declares itself in favor of the legalization of soft drugs, deeming it more appropriate to concentrate its resources on the fight against hard drugs and other types of crime. It also suggests that drug prevention and training policies continue and be strengthened, thanks to part of the proceeds obtained from the legalization of cannabis and its sale.

Also in this case the United States serves as a model. Many of the profits made from cannabis cultivation in Colorado, for example, have been invested in prevention programs to raise awareness of safe driving or in the fight against hard drugs.

This is probably the only direction through which the effects of the illegal market can be truly contained and public health can be safeguarded.

At a political level, there has recently been talk again about the great dilemma: to legalize cannabis or not to legalize it .

For over 20 years Senator Benedetto della Vedova has been trying to advance the problem. In recent years, della Vedova managed to create a transversal parliamentary intergroup, set up on a voluntary basis by parliamentarians also belonging to different political factions, with the aim of dealing with the legalization and decriminalization of cannabis.

As Benedetto della Vedova points out, it is no longer a question of deciding whether to legalize cannabis or not. The point is to understand that the time has come to regulate an already free market .

The intergroup, of which Matteo Mantero is also part, is well aware of the experience of the United States and also that of Spain, the opinion of the Anti-Mafia Directorate and the analysis of the data collected in Italy on cannabis consumption. It is precisely on the basis of these elements that the intergroup proposes a possibility to regulate and legalize cannabis in Italy , truly trying to deal with public health.

The text of the proposal, which we will see in greater detail in the following paragraphs, aims to legalize cannabis, allowing its possession and cultivation for personal use at one's home or with other people within an established association. The idea is inspired by the Cannabis social clubs already present in Spain and the United States, within which, upon membership, it is possible to grow and smoke cannabis sativa.

For Matteo Montero and Benedetto della Vedova, this model seems to be closer to Italian needs than the Dutch coffee shop model in which it may be less simple to control the quantity of substance purchased by each individual consumer.

The proposed law, however, is only one of the first steps towards the legalization of cannabis. A goal that doesn't seem too close for Italy yet.

cannabis flower

What the law says

The legislative process regarding cannabis sativa is long and complex. We will try to make a simple and clear picture of the current situation based on precious sources (in addition to the article, the conference also present in the link, held by Meglio Legale , by a researcher from the University of Messina, two criminal lawyers and two economists) who address the topic from a legal point of view.

After the declaration of unconstitutionality of the Fini Giovanardi law of 2006 , which abolished the distinction between soft drugs and hard drugs, the 1990 law came back into force, further amended in 2014 .

Obviously the distinction between soft drugs and hard drugs has returned, cannabis sativa of natural origin is among the former, that of synthetic origin in the latter ( the THC content establishes the natural or synthetic nature of cannabis).

However, the criterion of the maximum dose that can be held below which constitutes an administrative offense and not a criminal offense has been reintroduced.

Let's talk specifically about the distinction between article 73 (Detention for the purpose of dealing), which constitutes a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment and a fine, and article 75 (Detention for personal use), which constitutes only an administrative offence.

Unfortunately, saying "only" an administrative offense can be misleading because the offense can lead to significant inconveniences , which damage, even if to a lesser extent, individual freedom. The consequences may be the immediate seizure of the substance, the referral for psychological counseling, the withdrawal of the driving license or the withdrawal of the passport.

The maximum dose that can be held would be 5 grams, with a tolerance of multiplication by 10, therefore a maximum limit of 50 grams.

However, the maximum dose is identified and established through some circumstantial criteria , among which the real quantity or quantity of THC are not the only criteria.

The prosecutors use precise criteria to determine whether it is personal use or drug dealing, therefore whether it will be an administrative sanction or a criminal offence.

Let's see what some of the main circumstantial criteria may be:

  • the presence of scales
  • the distribution of the substance into small doses
  • criminal record
  • the income. If you have a fixed income you can prove that that amount was purchased for personal use. In the absence of income it will be easier to think that one is in possession of cannabis sativa to deal with.
  • the presence or absence of proven debts.

While waiting for a reform and regulation on the consumption of cannabis, we can only rely on the judiciary, which from case to case, should shed light and justice and be able to distinguish without too much difficulty between dealing and personal use of the substance, even in the presence of quantities greater than those permitted.

Can cannabis be sold in Italy?

In Italy it is possible to sell light hemp for industrial purposes as long as the THC percentage is compliant .

It is possible to sell light marijuana as long as there is a THC content of less than 0.2% and many checks are carried out every year to ensure that the parameters are actually respected.

When law 242 was born in 2016 with the aim of promoting light hemp, the light cannabis market also automatically blossomed because someone decided to try to also sell the inflorescences of the legal hemp plant.

Although CBD (cannabidiol) and CBG (cannabigerol) , the two active ingredients underlying legal cannabis, are totally free of psychotropic effects , some rulings in Parliament have deemed selling inflorescences to be an offence. The united sections agreed with the sentences and stood against legal cannabis. This is the reason for the extensive checks aimed at verifying the THC content and any psychotropic effects of the inflorescences.

As regards classic cannabis sativa, however, with a THC content higher than 0.6% and above, it is not possible to sell it since it would not even be possible to consume it.

Selling cannabis means breaking article 73 (Detention for the purpose of dealing) which is punishable by imprisonment from 6 to 20 years as well as very high cash fines.

The entire cannabis market in Italy is in the hands of mafias and crime.

This is the most serious consequence of the prohibitionist choice , which at the basis of its choices claims the protection of public safety, public order and public health.

All three of these goods, but especially the third, are seriously compromised when the black market is given free will . If we talk about safeguarding public health and therefore that of individual citizens, in fact, the harmful substances contained in grass or smoke sold without control on the street cannot be ignored and crime cannot be given carte blanche.

Furthermore, paternalist ideology is often based on the theory that cannabis sativa is the first step in moving on to other drugs. It has been widely demonstrated that this is a failed theory, which however can become real in some cases, since it is precisely the black market that consciously decides to withdraw cannabis to orient the consumer, perhaps young and uninformed, towards other types of drugs from which he could hardly return.

This too should be taken into account when balancing the pros and cons and advantages and disadvantages of legalizing cannabis or not.

What is certain is that as long as selling it is illegal, someone will sell it and someone will buy it anyway.

Still speaking of public health, there are other harmful situations in which legislation does not speak, think of alcohol and tobacco . This is despite the fact that cannabis sativa is not dangerous in itself, but rather its association with nicotine or once again excessive use and therefore abuse or even early intake in pre-adolescence makes it potentially harmful.

We must therefore ask ourselves (and many in politics are doing so) whether the intervention of criminal or administrative law is really so necessary but above all whether it is really lawful or whether it does not undermine, in an inconsistent and short-sighted way, the individual freedom and the potential of a substance with a thousand resources.

light cannabis Can cannabis be grown in Italy?

In 2016, with law 242 , it was decided to finally valorise legal hemp for agro-industrial purposes. From that moment and for the first time, it is possible to cultivate cannabis sativa, with a THC content of less than 0.6% , without any authorization but only with certain rules to be observed by growers.

The rules are few and simple, specifically:

  • throughout the growth of the plant a THC content of less than 0.6% must be maintained
  • it is necessary to purchase certified seeds and keep the seed tag for a period of 12 months

However, as regards plants with a THC content above 0.6% and above, problems begin. If in Italy the legislation has always been highly repressive for possession, purchase and importation, it has been even more drastically for the cultivation of cannabis, almost always harshly punished with several years of detention.

In December 2019, the United Sections of the Supreme Court of Cassation argued, as is well reported in this article , that the cultivation of cannabis constitutes a crime regardless of the percentage of active ingredient detectable at the time, the presence of the plant itself being sufficient, given its suitability to produce inflorescences with psychotropic effects.

However, the same Supreme Court ruling specifies that rudimentary, domestic and small-sized cannabis cultivation activities whose product does not exceed the quantities foreseen for personal use cannot be attributable to a criminal offence . The maximum quantity allowed is variable and once again not clearly regulated , however we are talking about no more than two or three seedlings.

However, at the moment it is only a ruling of the Supreme Court and not a law and the fact that it is not a criminal offense does not mean that it cannot constitute an administrative offense and equally compromise some individual freedoms such as, for example, the withdrawal of a driving licence, of the passport or even the obligation to attend a psychological interview for consultations that one feels no need for.

The cultivation of cannabis is not permitted independently and privately , not even for those who are being treated with therapeutic cannabis . Even cannabis for medical use, inexplicably, still encounters difficulties and resistance despite being on the market since 2006.

Today the National Institute of Florence can cultivate it freely, of course, but it cannot guarantee the entire needs of the country . Despite this, anyone who tries to cultivate it on their own is severely hindered.

Furthermore, therapeutic cannabis can only be used if classic drugs are not tolerated or are not successful, thus slowing down the patient's potential recovery. Finally, it is not present in the list of the National Health Service , so some regions arbitrarily decide to adopt it and others refuse. Sometimes even in the same regions there can be provinces that are favorable and provinces that are against.

It is easy to understand that if it is not possible to have a linear and homogeneous position even for therapeutic cannabis , the road to legalization is still long and difficult, but not impossible.

cannabis flower

Can you grow marijuana at home?

If you are interested in growing light cannabis , you will have no problems. In fact, as we have seen, it is possible to grow legal hemp, even at home. The only rules to respect are to choose certified seeds and maintain a THC content of less than 0.2%.

As regards the cultivation of cannabis with a high THC content, however, there is not yet a law that makes it possible.

There is the Supreme Court ruling of December 2019 which, as we have seen, takes into account the quantity of the final product . The sentence clearly states that, if there are no other circumstantial criteria (balances, distribution of doses, etc.), cultivation of cannabis in small quantities (2, 3 plants) does not constitute a criminal offence, but could constitute an administrative offence.

However, since there is no precise law in this regard, each case must be analyzed based on its peculiarities and ultimately it is the judiciary that decides and restores order among the holes and legislative distortions.

Let's take for example the case of two defendants tried in Messina on charges of being in possession of 1700 g of cannabis sativa including plants, inflorescences and hashish and therefore for having violated article 73 (Detention for the purposes of dealing).

After the analysis of the inflorescences, the position was re-evaluated on appeal. Half of the inflorescences turned out to be light marijuana, therefore they were no longer the subject of either a crime or an offence. The other part, although large enough to be considered for personal use, which we remember to be 5 g with a tolerance of up to 10 times the maximum limit allowed for personal use (50 g), had to be divided in two. There were scales in the house. Both had no criminal records and could demonstrate an average annual income.

It all ended with six months of house arrest and the withdrawal of his driving licence.

Another case in Rome. A 19 year old boy is stopped with more than 5 grams of grass while riding his scooter. The police follow him home and find 8 cannabis sativa plants plus approximately 300 grams of weed. The boy is taken to the police station and the case is taken over by the family lawyer, who manages to demonstrate that the boy had no need to deal to live, having a very high family income and that the cannabis was for personal use .

In the house there were no scales or traces of portioning, furthermore, and this was the element that made the difference, the plants were not yet mature and the detectable THC content was really modest.

Following severe psychological stress, the boy had benefited from taking cannabis sativa and instead of buying it on the street, he preferred to grow it on his own.

The case was resolved with a month of house arrest and the seizure of the substances.

Of course, you can't always be so lucky. Until there is a clear law regulating the cultivation of cannabis for personal use, it is best not to risk it.

In the proposal of the parliamentary intergroup to legalize cannabis and decriminalize it, the possibility of cultivating up to three plants for personal use is envisaged, with the possibility of possessing up to 15 grams of substance in one's home and 5 grams outside , provided that it is intended for personal use.

The intergroup's proposal also envisages better regulating the legal cannabis market for the benefit of growers and those who have invested in this new business, allowing its sale for food use and raising the THC content of the inflorescences up to 1% .

legal marijuana

At the basis of the reform proposal, there is once again the analysis of data, for example of prison detentions.

Approximately 21,213 inmates are in prison for cultivation of cannabis (even in modest quantities) or for possession of soft drugs compared to approximately 3,000 inmates who are in prison for rape (but many more are free), a crime which apparently legislation fails to keep tabs on as it should.

It is fortunate that senators like Benedetto della Vedova and Matteo Mantero have built an intergroup in Parliament and continue to fight for the cause from year to year. Unfortunately, often when we talk about hot topics such as legalizing cannabis in politics, criminal law is exploited by the political classes.

So perhaps to attract a certain electorate sensitive to certain issues, quick security packages are improvised which, in addition to undermining the work of those who for years believed they could lay the foundations for a reform on cannabis sativa, do not offer real solutions and indeed end up causing avoidable consequences.

For example, a wrong distribution of control and security resources, as underlined by the DDA or an overcrowding of prisons, populated by small and harmless criminals instead of big shots to be put out of business forever.

We can hope that the work of the intergroup will eventually find a way to legalize the cultivation of cannabis , even at home. While waiting for a clear and favorable law, it is better to practice with light marijuana, which, being free of psychotropic effects, will never be the subject of a crime.

We advise you to grow your plants without using chemical additives, just like we do with our inflorescences . If you are looking for completely organic light hemp, you can find different varieties on our website .

Can I open a cannabis social club in Italy?

At this moment there are very few cannabis social clubs, probably only two, one in Bolzano and one in Milan . They were both created solely and exclusively for the use of medical cannabis.

It is therefore possible to access and use cannabis sativa only upon medical prescription and as we know, although therapeutic cannabis can be effective for numerous pathologies, at the moment it can only be prescribed for very few of these.

If, however, we are referring to a cannabis social club dedicated to the consumption of cannabis for recreational use like those that exist in Spain and the United States, it is not yet possible.

However, the text of the intergroup's decriminalization proposal to legalize cannabis also provides for the possibility of cultivating cannabis in associated form , therefore in a cannabis social club of up to 30 members.

The association, once established, would have the obligation to communicate the cannabis cultivation activity to the prefecture and each member could grow up to three plants and keep up to 15 grams of cannabis in their home and up to 5 grams lying around .   

Matteo Mantero is particularly favorable to the Cannabis Club experience, because it is accessible only to its registered members and because it offers the possibility of monitoring the quantities of cannabis sativa used by each member.

This reform starts from the idea of ​​truly safeguarding public health, putting aside any paternalist ideology and dealing with reality.

By allowing the cultivation of cannabis directly to growers under state control, any risk of harmful substances added to the substance would be avoided , in addition to the fact that a place for aggregation and socialization would be created in a green area, a practice already in use in many city, for example with the activity of urban gardens .

In presenting its proposal, the intergroup points out that in history, scientific or otherwise, no death has ever been recorded due to the use of cannabis and weed does not harm the way tobacco and alcohol do, on which there is no it is no repressive intervention.

Furthermore, more than 70% of Italians are in favor of legalizing cannabis as has already been done in many countries, the experience of which has been significant and decidedly positive. Their experience shows that the number of cannabis sativa users does not grow after legalization but rather leads to a slight decline . In fact, more than 50% of Dutch people say they are not interested in consuming cannabis.

In the United States, the number of recreational users has remained unchanged while the number of users of harder drugs has decreased , especially among younger people.

The parliamentary intergroup tries to further reassure those who are against it, again setting the example of the way in which the legislation deals with alcohol.

It is sold freely , leaving the choice not to abuse it to the individual's responsibility and as regards the potential occurrence of so-called indirect criminogenic effects, such as driving while intoxicated and causing an accident, they are obviously regulated by criminal matters as is right. whatever it is.

The same should be done with cannabis sativa, leaving consumers the opportunity to take responsibility.

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