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IT: Ballot initiative moves Italy closer to cannabis decriminalization

The latest push for decriminalizing cannabis in Italy came out strong. The ballot campaign, launched only a couple of weeks ago, has already achieved the 500,000 signatures necessary to proceed.  

Specifically, the referendum is aimed to decriminalize home cultivation and suspend penalties for possession and personal use.  

Breakthrough in signature collection
The history of ballot campaigns for cannabis legalization in Italy can be traced back to the 90s, when Marco Pannella, politician and leader of the party Radicali, successfully promoted a referendum to decriminalize criminal penalties for personal use. After that, other attempts at cannabis legalization always fell short, until last week.  

The breakthrough of the ballot campaign was made possible by a new law the Italian Parliament approved in July, which allows citizens to sign digitally for ballot campaigns through the SPID (Public System for Digital Identity). This thing flew under the radar until the Cannabis Legalization Promoting Committee set up their ballot campaign taking advantage of this new tool for participating in the country’s politics.  

The ballot campaign only had until the 30th of September to reach the 500,000 signatures mark, a result that was deemed as impossible. Yet, in a little over two weeks, the ballot campaign has achieved this crucial milestone. This means that the Court of Cassation, the Italian Supreme Court, will proceed to evaluate the legitimacy of the signatures; on the other hand, the Constitutional Court will make sure that the referendum conforms to the constitution. After these steps, Italian citizens will be asked to vote “yes” or “no”.  

Italian sector reacts to ballot push 
“Little by little, the public has become aware that cannabis is way more than just a drug,” says Pietro Paolo Crocetta, President and CEO of Crystal Hemp. “There have been some medical cannabis supply issues; this ballot campaign is crucial to send a signal to the government to do something about that too. In the event the referendum passes, I hope to see a more simplified regulatory environment that would promote Italian companies in the global cannabis industry.”  

Pietro Paolo Crocetta, President and CEO of Crystal Hemp

“We have happily signed and supported the ballot campaign for cannabis decriminalization,” says Mattia Cusani, general secretary of the Cannabis Sativa Italia (CSI). “Although we at CSI work with industrial hemp, cannabis decriminalization will certainly have positive repercussions on the industrial hemp sector too – especially considering the shortcomings of the current regulations. For instance, human use is not taken into consideration at all If you want to talk about the state of art of the Italian hemp supply chain, it doesn’t even exist despite the fact that we have a framework law since 2016 (L. 242)! If this plant gets fully regulated, it can be controlled and promoted, thus elevating the quality of craft productions.”  

“Decriminalizing would mean that we can put more effort in this sector, meeting the ever-growing demand,” says Riccardo Arossa, partner of WholesaleCBDItaly. “This referendum is important as it will grant people easier access to this plant, dragging them away from the illicit market. Decriminalization would benefit everyone in this sector, from producers to consumers.”  

The Cannabis Legalization Promoting Committee has shared that almost half of the signatures are from people under 25 years of age. This certainly shows the big shift that is occurring in public opinion.