LGC Capital, a Canadian investment firm focused on the global cannabis market, just bought 47 percent of EasyJoint, the biggest producer of what is known as “cannabis light” in Italy. “Cannabis light” is the term broadly used by Italians (and by national newspapers and media outlets) to refer to cannabis with THC levels below legal limits.
Classified as a “collector’s item” instead of a smoking product, EasyJoint was created by Luca Marola, a cannabis activist, author, and owner of one of the oldest Italian grow-shops, Canapaio Ducaleis. It’s distributed in 11 official EasyJoint stores and can also be found in over 300 retailers, including grow and herbalist stores, and pharmacies.
Since the early days of prohibition, cannabis laws in Europe have remained a delicate topic. Each state of the Union handles cannabis in their own way—and Italy chose to lean 420 un-friendly. In 2006, the controversial Fini-Giovanardi Law 49/06 removed the distinction between hard and soft drugs. Until it was struck down by the Constitutional Court in 2014, the possession of marijuana and hashish was punished as harshly as the possession of heroin or cocaine. But last year, following in the steps of Switzerland, the boot-shaped nation saw a shift in mentality regarding cannabis laws.
At present, Italian law considers any cannabis flower with THC levels over 0.5 percent to be a narcotic substance. But since 2006, medical marijuana can be used if a doctor prescribes it, and only for the treatment of specific chronic diseases. EasyJoint plays with legal loopholes and relies on its extremely low THC levels (never above 0.2 percent) to stay legit.
“EasyJoint established the minimum quality standards and gave farmers financial references putting on a contract the ones whom could reach them,” Davide Fortin, an economist specialized in Drug Policy at the Sorbonne University in Paris, tells High Times. “These informations are key for a new market with a biannual productive cycle such as the outdoor production and the consequential increasing number of people involved in the market created a group focused exclusively on cannabis inflorescences. It has proven that this market not only is fresh, innovative and constantly growing at an international level but that it also can contribute to the development of the country in a significant way.”
At the European level, Fortin explains, EasyJoint gives resonance to a phenomenon that started in Switzerland. It shows that it’s possible to create a market around cannabis inflorescences at an EU level, despite the commercialization of the flower lacking regulation.
“The legitimacy of a cannabis market represents a step forward towards legalization,” he says. “A lot of Italians have never used cannabis and now they have a chance to see first-hand what this plant really is. Yet I think for a full legalization legislators need to be convinced that these reforms are legitimate and accepted on a European level. External events such as the full legalization in other states will have a significant impact in the matter. Luxembourg is scheduled to be the next country to go green and that could be the boost many countries need to step up their game.”
In the United States, medical cannabis campaigns made a strong change in public opinion and led to referendum victories that now allow adult-use in 10 states. Marola tells us that EasyJoint is helping people see marijuana for what it truly is: a plant
“We’re following the same path in Italy with industrial marijuana,” Marola says. “We give people the possibility to learn about cannabis’ benefits, we’ve created an approach, a chance to interact with the flower without breaking the law.”
But getting the business to where it currently is has been anything but easy. In fact, they weren’t sure if selling flower with any THC would be allowed. Much like the United States, the prohibitionist mentality among the government in Italy created an environment in which all cannabis was banned.
But thanks to the deal with LGC Capital, EasyJoint will not only enter the florid Canadian market exporting “Italian excellence,” but the Italian treasury will also make an estimated 1 million-euro profit, which is a considerable amount for a country that’s drowning in a deep economic crisis.
“Thanks to the large investment made by LGC Capital EasyJoint will be able to expand towards new segments of the market, such as food, cosmetics, concentrates and geographically expand perhaps on International level.” says Fortin.
Recent studies also show that the cannabis light market is reducing the marijuana black market by 12 percent.
“EasyJoint broke the system,” says Marola. “We created a market we could only dream of and now the institutions can’t ignore it anymore—they must acknowledge its relevance.”
Giuseppe Civati, Italian politician and a member of the Italian Chamber of Deputies from 2013 to 2018, confirms Marola’s thoughts.
“From a pre-political and cultural point, EasyJoint has brought awareness towards the plant,” he tells High Times. “People now know the difference between THC and CBD, and that must be considered a conquer in a conservative country like Italy. When we were discussing legalization in the Chamber of Parliament, we stressed how Italy in the ’40s was the second biggest producer of industrial cannabis before the start of the War on Drugs and synthetic fabrics introduction in the market”
According to the national farmers association Coldiretti, almost 100 thousand hectares (i.e. 1000 km2) of farmland in Italy were dedicated to the production of cannabis at the time.
Italy is still far away on the line but “Cannabis knowledge creates responsible use. Each step towards quality control of cannabis and legal access to adult consume is a step towards legalization.” concludes Civati.