Four city counsellors in the Italian city of Bologna have come forward in support of recreational cannabis reform for their municipality.
In this central, northern city known for its historical infrastructure dating back to medieval times, the goal is to continue the debate about cannabis reform on a local level to keep political pressure alive—and to figure out basic logistics. In Bologna, the current suggestion is that initial recreational access happens through the city’s pharmacies (much like the Swiss model rolling out this summer just across the border).
The Current Legalization Status of Italy
The country is moving forward on reform in ways that are similar but not a carbon copy of any other European country at the moment.
“Medical cannabis” with high THC is produced at the Military Pharmaceutical Chemical plant (located in Florence) and also imported via strict pharmaceutically defined channels.
Private vendors (Aurora) actually operate the domestic cannabis facilities, but it is a high-security environment.
Home grow is also not strictly legit, although case precedent has essentially decriminalized it for patients who can prove they are sick. That still does not protect them from police raids, but at least there is a growing awareness that this issue cannot be entirely removed from the room.
Beyond this, hemp and low THC, aka “cannabis light,” is also legal in the country (formally) putting Italy on par with the UK rather than, say, Germany in this regard right now although there is a growing CBD market in Germany. Vendors just have to prepare themselves for the ever-present threat of a criminal charge. There are currently 200 pending prosecutions against only CBD establishments. That phenomenon is not being seen in Italy where low THC products are available at specialized stores and via online sales.
There has been a petition drive to legalize recreational use that was snuffed out at the Constitutional court lately, but it is not likely that reform will go away now, anywhere, at a federal level in Europe.
In the meantime, cities like Bologna and before it, Milan (as of February) are trying to approach the issue on a more localized level. And as in this case, in a semi-coordinated effort unseen so far yet in any European country. Specifically, the Milanese attempt was referenced favorably in Bologna as ministers raised the topic.
Why the Italian Market is Important to European Reform
Just as in the American states, European countries are now trying to figure out how to venture into the shallow end of the cannabis recreational kiddie pool. Nobody wants to jump in at the deep end. This is also one of the reasons that the Swiss experiment is so important here, too. However limited, it shows that a country in Europe can have a national cannabis trial, and the proverbial sky will not fall in.
There are also multiple signs here that the hemp cultivation sector is moving ahead—including for phytoremediation purposes.
Beyond these developments, the country already represents a valuable CBD marketplace for cannabis imports. There are many Swiss vendors looking at the commercial opportunities in both France and Italy right now for this very reason.
Beyond this, no matter how much the police, government ministers and certainly the legitimate industry does not like this conversation, home grow cannot continue to be penalized with federal criminal charges—especially for people with severe illnesses.
This has been established in Italy via court precedent, unlike Germany, and beyond this, legislation allowing the same has either passed, will do so, or is generically the case in Malta, Portugal, and Holland.
On the medical side of the discussion, the only place where THC is allowed presently, Italy, like Germany, has tried to integrate the plant and its psychoactive cannabinoid into normalized medical channels. Thus, the military base requirement for the EU GMP flower grown domestically.
The recent squashing of a petition to hold a national referendum here also puts Italy in interesting territory via its neighbors. In Germany, there is a professor who has called for a national referendum on the rec reform issue (knowing also that the German Basic Law itself would have to be changed first to allow such a petition at all). This is nothing more than a cynical move to slow the entire conversation down as long as possible. In Italy, the Constitutional Court has struck down the first petition allowing for such a mandate to occur, but it is not likely that this setback will deter the growing sector here, much less allow federal politicians to continue to kick the can down the road much longer in any tangible way.
This interesting city-by-city relay system amongst northern Italian cities is yet another sign that progress will not be halted here.
As they say in these parts, Rome after all, was not built in a day.