Italy could be well on its way to ending marijuana prohibition. For the first time in history, the Italian Parliament will gather next week to discuss a piece of legislation aimed at legalizing the cultivation, possession and use of marijuana in a manner similar to what the United States has deemed an “experiment” in relation to the taxed and regulated market in states like Colorado.
Although Italy has never really been considered a pillar of drug reform, the latest bill, which was brought to the table by Cannabis Legale, an inter-parliamentary organization whose manifesto suggests the “anti-prohibitionist option on marijuana is no longer just an idea, but…a concrete government strategy,” could push the nation into a realm of influence that serves as a guiding light for other countries, all over the world, that may be considering similar policies.
The bill, which is scheduled to be heard in the lower chamber on Monday, would give citizens the freedom to maintain up 15 grams of marijuana at home and up to five grams in public. It would also set up permissions for home cultivation that would allow the people to grow up to five plants for personal use. A report from The Local indicates that growers could then establish cannabis clubs for the purpose of social use, with the language of the law allowing the complimentary transfer of marijuana in this environment but never for profit.
However, if this bill becomes law, cannabis would become a part of the country’s taxed and regulated commerce. The Italian government would issue licenses that allows marijuana to be cultivated and sold in retail outlets for recreational purposes, with all purchases taxed at a rate of 5 percent, which would then be used to fund Italy’s war on illegal drug trafficking. But much like the recreational cannabis laws in the U.S, the Italian policy would prohibit smoking in public parks, etc and stoned driving would be a punishable offense.
The Cannabis Legale crew, which was put together by Senator Benedetto Della Vedova, is heading into Parliament, next week, already with a great deal of support for its proposal. Last September, 294 representatives from both the conservative and liberal parties signed off on the bill, and it is said to have the endorsement of influential powers from the nation’s anti-mafia commission.
“Prohibitionist policies have failed in their impossible aim to eliminate the use of drugs and have not reduced the illegal market for cannabis,” Senator Della Vedova, MP for the People of Freedom Party, said in a statement. “Instead, organized crime has controlled the whole chain: production, processing and sales. By legalizing cannabis, the State would cut off substantial income from organized crime and transfer the illegal profits to the State budget.”
But this is not to say that the concept of legalizing weed to combat organized crime is one appreciated by everyone. Enrico Costa of Italy’s New Centre-Right Party told Il Messaggero that he does not understand what the bill attempts to achieve. “What does it mean?” he asked. “Legalizing drug addiction to get back the money the country spends in trying to prevent it? Italy has more pressing issues.”
Some of the latest polls indicate that 83 percent of Italians believe the country’s laws against “soft drugs” are ineffective, while 73 percent feel the nation should consider legalizing marijuana. Interestingly, 58 percent suggest this action should be taken in an effort to benefit the economy.
Once Italy’s Chamber of Deputies have had a chance to debate the bill on Monday, it will then be voted on the next day in hopes of advancing it to the upper chamber for final approval. However, lawmakers may not be prepared to hit the ground running over the controversial issue of marijuana legalization this close to Parliament’s summer recess, which is set to begin the following week. There are also concerns that many lawmakers will not see the measure as a priority when it returns from break in September.
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