Italy is one of the forerunners regarding progressive cannabis legislation. Medical cannabis has been made available to patients since 2013, but the lack of local cultivation forced imports and its prices remained quite high. In 2017, the Military Chemical and Pharmaceutical Plant (SCFM), based in Florence was granted exclusivity of the country’s cannabis production and distribution. Later in the same year, the Italian Senate passed a law permitting the cultivation of cannabis without the need for authorization in the food, cosmetics and energy sectors.
A popular form of marijuana sold in cannabis shops in Italy is the so called “cannabis light. This is a catchy name Italians have for cannabis sativa plant derivatives with low levels of THC. Other forms of recreational marijuana are punishable severely, both for possession and selling. Earlier this year the Italian police shut down several cannabis stores in suspicion of illegal drug trafficking.
There are a lot of “grey areas” in the current Italian legislation. That’s why the “cannabis light” is actually sold for “collection” purposes only and cannot be consumed in public places. Containers must remain closed when in transit between the point of purchase and the home, and the product cannot be sold-on. In May 2019 was issued a new clarification on the laws. According to the latest interpretation, cannabis shops cannot market goods that suggest the hemp plant be used in any manner akin to drug taking. The dominant meaning of the law is now taken to be that oils, buds and resins are unacceptable, while bags, t-shirts and other non-consumable products are unproblematic.
As for industrial hemp, Italy was one of the top producers mid-20th century. The decline of hemp production in the country came with the economic boom of the 1950s and 1960s, during which time synthetic fibers were introduced into the market and the international campaign against narcotics intensified. Even though the European standard for low THC is 0.2%, back in 2016 the Italian lawmakers set the domestic ceiling at 0.6% THC in an attempt to give hemp farmers leeway for natural variations resulting from cultivation. Currently reports tell us that there are 4000 hectares of industrial hemp in Italy in addition to the Military plant (SCFM). According to specialists, the cultivation of cannabis for therapeutic use could generate a turnover of 1.4 billion euro and guarantee at least 10 000 jobs, while reducing dependence from imports.