A campaign for the decriminalisation of cannabis in Italy by campaign group ReferendumCannabis has gained more than 500,000 signatures in less than a week.
Pro-cannabis campaigners and political parties gathered half a million signatures in a campaign that could lead to a popular referendum on the decriminalisation of cannabis in spring 2022. The referendum calls for the decriminalisation of cultivation, the removal of sentences for conduct related to cannabis and the cancellation of the administrative sanction of the withdrawal of an individual’s driving licence for the personal use of cannabis.
The campaign follows recent proposals for legislative reform in the country that would allow Italian citizens to cultivate up to four cannabis plants in their own homes for personal use, but which would increase penalties for cannabis trafficking and dealing crimes from six to 10 years.
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Guido Silvestri, board member for pan-European party that supports cannabis legalisation, Volt Italia, highlights that in Italy, since 2006, doctors have been able to prescribe preparations containing cannabis-based active substances for medical use.
Silvestri commented: “The practice is unfortunately very different and cumbersome for patients. Doctor is never obliged to prescribe therapy and many refuse even to consider cannabis as a therapeutic option because they do not know it and do not want to know it or “because it is a drug of abuse”.
“In addition even when the patient finds one of the few pharmacies ready to prepare Therapeutic Cannabis (only 600 out of 19,000 total in Italy), he/she will likely experience the dramatic and continuous cannabis shortage linked to very high demand and little supply linked to insufficient imports by Italy from Holland or Canada.
“Many patients are therefore forced to buy cannabis on the illegal market or to self-cultivate it, with the risk of criminal investigation and trial, or administrative sanctions.”
The ReferendumCannabis campaigners highlight that every year in Italy six million cannabis users are forced to use the black market, where the substance can often contain unsafe materials such as glass wool, hairspray and lead, and that legalising cannabis would mean having a safe and controlled substance.
“Very recently, in September, a proposal of law to decriminalise home cultivation of a limited number of plants was eventually approved by a commission of the Parliament,” continued Silvestri.
“At this point, about a year and a half after the dissolution of the Houses, there is a high risk that Parliament will not be able to approve a text definitively, leaving patients unprotected and six million of cannabis consumers in the hands of the Mafias, like always.
“However there is unprecedented news in the cannabis political scenario. Associations like Meglio Legale, Antigone, “Luca Coscioni”, together with few small and new parties (like Volt, +Europa, Possibile) that supported consistently cannabis legalisation in Italy, decided to try to collect the 500,000 signatures needed to set a referendum that eliminates the crime of cultivation and cancels administrative sanctions.
“Only 20 days were left to the deadline: the end of September. An impossible feat, many said, but for the first time in Italy, it is possible to collect signatures digitally; this is an innovation introduced only few weeks ago. Surprisingly, only in the first two days more than 220,000 signatures were collected and it is likely that the threshold of 500,000 will be surpassed.
“This is likely the consequence of the strong potential of the digital signature and the large distance between the sentiment of the population and the perception of the traditional political parties that seat in the parliament.
“The Italian population will eventually have the possibility to be informed and vote on cannabis-based on facts and not old ideologies.”