Italy cracks down on legal cannabis

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Italian Prime Minister Matteo Salvini sends a public message to the nation, condemning the proliferation of legal cannabis products.

Italy has always had a complicated relationship with cannabis, owing largely to a political bi-polarity that goes back decades.

Although Italy is one of the greatest consumers of cannabis per capita, it is also the home of the Catholic church and its politics have been mired by a bitter contest between conservative and left-wing groups. This has led to a confused identity for the nation when it comes to cannabis.

Earlier this year, there was a general election in Italy, which resulted in an impossible coalition between two populist parties: M5S, an anti-establishment party of mixed values led by Luigi Di Maio and Lega, an isolationist far party led by Matteo Salvini. Salvini, in particular, is a controversial character, having already drawn strong criticism regarding his party’s attitude towards migration and their lack of support for vaccination legislation. Further making his mark, he now turns his outrage towards shops selling legal non-psychoactive cannabis flowers.

Legal CBD-rich cannabis flowers are a fairly new phenomenon to hit European markets. Technically a variety of high-grade hemp, these buds resemble normal recreational cannabis. The catch is that there is a minuscule amount of THC, not enough to be psychoactive. There is however still a high concentration of the legal cannabinoid CBD and the aromatic compounds such as terpenes.  This non-psychoactive variety of cannabis has become a popular gimmick in shops around Europe, with companies such as Kannabeira in Portugal and Hemp Botanics, Other Side and many others in the UK retailing the raw herbs.

In recent years, cannabis has enjoyed a sort of renaissance in Italy. Medical access to cannabis has been granted by a doctor’s prescription in certain regions, albeit with limited accessibility. The campaigns for legalisation in Italy have been strong, with groups like Cannabis Legale pressuring parliament and organisations like Canapa Mundi showcasing cannabis to the public.  Now the latest development has been the sale of CBD flowers.

According to Salvini, this is a slippery slope which will lead to psychoactive cannabis being used surreptitiously. He has been quoted as describing the shops selling the herbs as ‘dangerous, like the brothels masquerading as Chinese massage parlours’.  A representative of ministry of health had said ‘it was a grave error’ and that it may lead members of the public to believe that cannabis is harmless. If only she knew that prohibition increased the harm of drug use!

For now, tutto bene in Italia. No shops have been closed and the farms and companies involved in the trade of high-CBD flowers continue to do business. All the while, the potential wrath of the Italian bureaucracy is certainly at the back of everyone’s mind.


Read more about cannabis in Italy here:

Exploring the European Cannabis Scene (Part 3)