Italy’s cannabis industry could rival the legal market in the US

Italy’s underground economy, according to official estimates, is the size of Portugal’s entire GDP. A staggering 211 billion euros, roughly 12% of Bel Paese’s economy; in 2014, it peaked at 14%. According to Sole24Ore, a properly functioning legal Italian cannabis market can be worth 30 billion euros by 2029.

There are implications for the state’s coffers as well from the surfacing of a sophisticated market. According to the University of Messina, the state would gain circa 6 billion euros from decriminalisation. 

Today’s subfraction, the legal Cannabidiol or CBD market, supports 10,000 jobs and is worth 150 million euros. During the first lockdown of 2020, there were as many sales as throughout the entirety of the financial year 2019, soaring to 300% of sales during April. 

Italy is currently the second consumer in Europe, with at least 9% of Italians having tried the product, spiking up to 27.4% amongst millennials. It is favoured by a rich agricultural tradition and climate to sustain it. It is a top-caliber global tourist hub, attracting 96 million tourists in 2019, and located in Europe.

Across the pond, the US has developed a much more sophisticated market, with Forbes calling it “America’s hidden job boom”. Three hundred thousand people are employed full-time by this sector, adding a 44% increase in 2019 across the country, with a projected 35 billion dollar market size by 2025.

Yet, for Italy’s cannabis market to reach its economic potential and compete properly, Italians will have to undergo a public debate touching upon its social and legal dimensions, just as the Americans have.


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