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Why Is It Taking So Long To Legalize Cannabis Cultivation In Italy?

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Formal talks to explore legalizing cannabis home cultivation nationwide in Italy are officially underway. Per Corriere delle Alpi as of last week (auto-translated to English), “The general discussion on the cultivation, sale and consumption of cannabis and its derivatives begins in the Chamber.”

Before cannabis enthusiasts and advocates around the world get too excited, it’s probably worth noting that what will unfold in Italy will likely be a long process, which if that does indeed prove to be the case, will be unfortunate. Cannabis prohibition policies as they pertain to home cultivation and any other facet of cannabis consumption, possession, and distribution are failed public policies. That is true both within Italy and everywhere else that prohibition exists.

With that in mind, lawmakers in Italy need to get on the right side of history and end prohibition. That’s an opinion that is not only shared by cannabis enthusiasts inside and outside of Italy, but also within judicial circles in Italy, including at the highest level (no pun intended).

Landmark Supreme Court Decision

In 2019 Italy’s Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in which it struck down cannabis prohibition as it pertained to personal cannabis cultivation. The Court’s decision was fairly brief, being only one page in length, and containing the words, “at home, small-scale cultivation activities are to be considered excluded from the application of the penal code.”

At the time, the decision was hailed across the globe, and rightfully so. However, since the decision was rendered lawmakers have failed to pass a measure to codify the Court’s decision, as the decision left many unanswered questions, not the least of which is ‘what constitutes small-scale cultivation?’

The specific case that Italy’s Supreme Court reviewed and rendered a decision on back in 2019 involved an individual cultivating 2 plants. Does that mean that there should be a two-plant limit in Italy? More plants? Does the space in which the cannabis is being cultivated matter? Can the plants be cultivated in public view, such as on a balcony or in a backyard surrounded by balconies on neighboring properties? The Court’s decision was favorable, however, it’s up to lawmakers to firm it up and fill in the blanks.

Recent Referendum Sends A Clear Message

In 2021 activists in Italy made the most of a new provision for gathering signatures for referendums, gathering hundreds of thousands of signatures electronically in mere weeks in order to put cannabis legalization before the nation’s voters. The speed at which the signature-gathering effort reached its 600k+ goal was inspiring and spoke volumes about how much voters in Italy want to see an end to cannabis prohibition.

Unfortunately, despite gathering the necessary signatures, the referendum effort was blocked essentially at the last step of the process by Italy’s Supreme Court, which deemed the referendum measure to be unconstitutional. Once again, Italy’s Supreme Court put the issue squarely on national lawmakers.

How long the process will take to end cannabis prohibition in Italy, both for home cultivation and beyond, is anyone’s guess at this point. Activists have tried for a long time to get Italy on the right side of history and it has been slow going (not for a lack of effort!). With that being said, the domestic process to legalize home cultivation in Italy is not happening in a vacuum.

While Italian lawmakers continue to drag their feet several other countries in Europe and around the world are working towards not only legalizing home cultivation but also creating legal adult-use industries. As momentum continues to build outside of Italy, especially on the European continent, it will continue to add to the pressure directed at Italian lawmakers within Italy’s borders.