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Cannabis use in Italy is not illegal. However, possessing or selling it is. The law is lenient on those caught with cannabis for the first time, but repeat offences usually incur severe fines or a prison sentence. Italy legalised Medical Cannabis in 2007, when the government acknowledged the therapeutic benefits of THC for a variety of medical conditions.
Can you sell cannabis in Italy?
It is illegal to sell or supply cannabis in Italy. If caught selling cannabis, the punishment is less severe than for harder drugs like heroin or cocaine. Selling heroin, can result in up to twenty-two years in prison. By contrast, sale of cannabis only results in a maximum of six years.
There are some exceptions to this. If the offence is regarded as minor, the prison sentence is limited to a maximum of four years and could be as little as six months. When passing sentence, the Italian judicial system takes into account the mode of sale, the offender’s character, their conduct and the motives for selling.
Can you grow cannabis in Italy?
Hemp cultivation has been legal in Italy since 2016. This has proved to be of significant benefit to some Italian businesses, who have started manufacturing hemp-based products such as hemp pasta and building materials. It is also legally grown by the Italian military – the only organisation currently permitted to grow medicinal-strength cannabis. At present, they are struggling to keep up with demand.
Also in 2016, Italy’s parliament debated the possibility of legalising the cultivation of up to five plants for personal use. The suggestion met with strong opposition, notably from Catholic law-makers and the far-right political parties.
Is CBD legal in Italy?
Therapeutic CBD oil, i.e. for medical use is legal to purchase and use. It can only be purchased from a pharmacy when prescribed by a doctor.
It is also legal to purchase CBD oil without a prescription, but the levels of THC must be <0.6%. It can be sold as a food additive but not for technical use.
Medicinal Cannabis in Italy
In 2013, the Italian government legalised the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. But up until 2017, patients were only able to use Bedrocan – a product that is imported from the Netherlands and is expensive to buy.
In 2014, parliament legalised cannabis production in Italy. However, only the Ministry of Defence were permitted to grow it. As a result, the military-owned Institute of Pharmaceuticals in Florence is the only place that cultivates cannabis for medicinal use. Astonishing as it may seem, the Italian military are responsible for growing cannabis.
Demand for medicinal cannabis has been increasing steadily year after year. Some, however, regard the price and complexity of obtaining it as not worth the effort. This means that individuals are still turning to black market suppliers, rather than operating within the law.
Aurora won the tender to supply a significant share of the Italian market and they are currently charging EUR1.73 per gram for their Medical Cannabis Flower.
Industrial hemp in Italy
In the 1940s, Italy was believed to be one of the world’s largest producers of hemp. Over 100 hectares of land were devoted to its cultivation. This changed after World War II, when hemp production was banned entirely.
In 2017, the Italian Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies issued a new directive stating that hemp cultivation was legal again. Stipulations were put into place:
- The THC level should not exceed 0.2%,
- If it is higher but does not exceed 0.6%, the farmer will not be penalised
- If plants contain more than 0.6% THC, the police have the right to impound the farmer’s grow
Politics in Italy and Cannabis
Many of the popular political parties in Italy have differing views on the legalisation of cannabis. The Five Star Movement believe it should be legalised, as do the Democratic Party (PD).
Their views are met with strong opposition. The far-right League Party are openly against cannabis use and oppose all suggestions to legalise it. Likewise, the Roman Catholic Church who still have significant influence throughout Italy has made its strong stance against cannabis clear.
With Italy’s political future in the balance, the legalisation of cannabis relies largely on which party wins the next general election.
Some statistics about Italy’s Cannabis consumption:
- 7% of young adults claim to use cannabisin Italy
- Marijuana and hash (cannabis resin) are the most commonly seized drugs in Italy
In 2016 a law permitting individuals to grow up to five cannabis plantsin their own home was tried to pass through parliament. The law would also have allowed the formation of social cannabis groups (up to 50 growers). The law was not passed, due to strong opposition from other political parties and the Roman Catholic Church.