Could cannabis legalization in Italy be on the horizon?

A new proposal seeking to legalize cannabis for personal use while easing criminal penalties is making waves in the country of love.

In just a week, #referendumcannabis garnered well over 500,000 online signatures. It’s the first referendum to ever do so fully online, writes a post from the campaign’s official Facebook page. According to Italian law, any campaign with over 500,000 signatures will force a referendum.

“This success is explained by [many] factors,” says Italy Giuseppe Civati, founder of the Possibile party, citing the introduction of digital signatures as a major factor. “[It] seriously cut organization costs,” he said.

Existing signatures will be counted and verified before making an official submission to the Supreme Court of Cassation for approval. However, organizers urge supporters to continue to sign and are calling for new signatures before the September 30 deadline.

The current state of cannabis legalization in Italy

Currently, cannabis is technically legal in Italy. Although recreational consumption was decriminalized in 1993, criminal charges for cultivation and sale are hefty. Selling, buying and cultivating cannabis carries up to a 10-year prison sentence, tripled from 2006.

Among the country’s European neighbours, Italy’s legal stance on cannabis is more liberal than countries like France or the UK. According to the 2021 European Drug Report, cannabis accounts for 74 percent of drugs seized by law enforcement officials in the European Union.

Earlier this month, Italy decriminalized small-scale cultivation for personal use. Other EU member states such as the Czech Republic, Estonia and Portugal have also decriminalized cannabis use.

Once the cannabis decriminalization referendum goes forward before the courts after determining all requirements have been met, Italians could vote on the issue as early as spring 2022.

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