Italy, cannabis legalisation bill goes back to parliamentary committee

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The Italian parliament (Image via Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

By Antonella Serrecchia

The coming constitutional referendum is in the spotlight of the Italian parliamentary and societal debate. Because of its great relevance to the country, many other topics are being neglected. On October the 6th, the Cannabis Legalisation Bill was presented before the House, but the 1500 amendments unveiled the opposers’ obstructionist strategy. Since no debate was possible, the law went back to the parliamentary committee for further modifications.

This July, an inter-party group of 113 parliamentarians presented the proposal, receiving across-the-board subscriptions. The proposal’s input came from a report by the DNA (National Antimafia Department),  published last year. According to the document, the decriminalisation of soft drugs would decrease the judicial system workload, unburden law enforcement agencies and pinch big criminal organisations from an important source of income.

At the present, possession of marijuana is illegal in Italy and personal use is tolerated up to 500mg of THC (the active chemical principle in Marijuana).

The new law would allow people to carry up to 5 grams of marijuana, to possess up to 15 grams at home and to plant up to 5 feminine plants. Furthermore, a Monopoly of State will only allow state-licensed shops to sell cannabis and its derivatives.  Pushing will remain a criminal offense.

According to Gianni Milella, SEL deputy, and signatory, the bill, as conceived by the inter-group, will not get enough votes. “The Democratic Party will not officially advocate for it, fearing internal discords with the moderate-catholic fringe. It will end up as the Civil Union Bill did.” (That is to say, the most progressive articles will be cut off, and a much more moderate version will pass).

Doctor Alessandro Meluzzi, psychiatrist, and former deputy, strongly opposes tolerant drug policies. “First of all, cannabis”, he explains,  “is not a harmless drug. It causes altered state of consciousness, which is why is prescribed as a pain reliever to the terminally-ill. Secondly, it does present side-effects, such as addiction for example. On a social level, legalizing cannabis will just push the borders of transgression a bit further. What will we do, then? Legalise any drug?”

According to EMCDDA (European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction), 32% of the Italian population between 15 and 64 makes exceptional use of Marijuana, and 14% of the same cross-section has used marijuana in the last 12 months. This makes Italians the biggest weed consumers in Europe.

In the Netherlands, where the drugs policy has been “tolerant” for almost 40 years now, occasional users of Marijuana are almost 22% of the surveyed population, while people that smoked cannabis within the last 12 months are less than 6%. Leonne Gartz, spokes-person for the Dutch Ministry of Health, would not attribute this results solely on Dutch tolerant policy  as, according to her, results of drugs policy are very culture-specific and depend on various factors.

Davide Fortin works as a consultant for MPG (Marijuana Policy Group), an American firm that provides businesses and governments with cannabis-related market analysis. According to his studies, legalising marijuana would have a positive impact on drug addiction figures. “Trends show that  countries and states  with tolerant policies have a smaller percentage of cannabis consumers.” Furthermore, it would represent a good source of income for the government. “Finally,” he argues, “if you make it right, in five years time you will take the wind out of the black market’s sails. In Colorado, the value of illegal drug traffic decreased by 15% after two years of legalisation.”

Mr. Fortin claims to have sent his research paper to the Italian parliamentary committee of Social Affairs and Justice but received no feedback.

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