In the 1940s, Italy was said to be the world’s second-biggest producer of industrial hemp, but after World War II, the country adopted a different approach to the cultivation of hemp, banning the business completely.
But a government directive released on 14 January 2017, on production and commercialization of legal marijuana, demonstrated a considerable political and ideological shift in perspective.
On 14 January 2017, the Italian Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies published a directive clarifying the tools for improving the cultivation and the agro-industrial chain of hemp, Rule 2 December 2016, Article n. 242.
The directive reiterates that the cultivation of hemp is legal and does not need any kind of license or authorization from the government, which is required, instead, for the cultivation of plants that have a Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) rate of over 0.2%, as specified by European regulation.
If the percentage is higher but does not go beyond the 0.6% limit, the farmer will not be sanctioned; if, after examination, the plants are found to contain a THC rate of over 0.6%, judicial authorities have the power to impound or destroy a cultivation facility.
The directive outlined rules related to:
- the cultivation and production of industrial hemp;
- the use and consumption of hemp-derived compounds from local production;
- the development of local supply chains that enhance research, and promotion of a sustainable and eco-friendly economy - a ‘new hemp economy’;
- the production of goods, beauty products, and renewable raw materials and intermediate products for various sectors;
- and the development of bioengineering work, land recycling, and research on industrial hemp.
The Italian government stated that the directive aims at clarifying the scope of industrial hemp production, in order to implement useful rules, specifying how and for whom they may apply.
The directive outlines the rules for the cultivation of industrial hemp in the European horticulture industry, and highlights that the reproduction of cannabis sativa is allowed only when the seed of the plant is certified; autogamy or self-fertilization of industrial hemp is not permitted.
Plant owners must be able to provide documentation of purchasing industrial hemp of no less than 12 months.
The importance of hemp
In recent years, industrial hemp has been used to produce various goods ranging from strong, durable and environmentally-friendly plastic substitutes to quantities of paper, textiles, building materials, paint, detergent, and ink. The production and commercialization of hemp for ornamental purpose is legal and does not need government authorization.
Importing industrial hemp into Italy for commercialisation must not only abide by national rules but also by European regulation.
As regards inflorescence, the Directive emphasizes that this mode of development and arrangement of industrial hemp is permitted if this abides by the rules on horticulture of Cannabis sativa: the plant must belong to a variety of the Cannabis sativa that is recognized by the national law, and the THC of the plants must be within the limits established by the Directive.
Law 2 December 2016, Article n. 242 reiterates the importance of funding research and development on industrial hemp: what are the uses of industrial hemp and how can production and commercialization of industrial hemp contribute to a sustainable local and national economy, and how to make a ‘green impact’ - production and distribution of eco-friendly beauty products, renewable raw materials, and innovative intermediate products for various sectors.
In summary, the directive highlights that:
- reproduction of hemp plants is permitted exclusively from certified seeds
- reproduction through self-fertilization of material for marketing is not legal
- according to Article 3 of Law n. 242 of 2016, the owner must be able to provide evidence for keeping industrial hemp seeds and proof of purchase of no less than 12 months, and, in any case, for the entire duration of the cultivation and production of industrial hemp
- commercialization of plants as ornamental commodity does not require government authorization
- horticulture of Cannabis sativa is regulated by articles 19 and 20 of Directive of 19 August 2005, n. 214 on protection standards against the introduction and distribution of detrimental organisms against plants and plant products.
- importing industrial hemp plants for commercial purpose, from foreign countries (outside Italy) must abide by national and EU laws
- with regard to inflorescence - a mode of development and arrangement of industrial hemp - the directive says that all rules on horticulture of industrial hemp apply to this. All plants must derive from a variety of the Cannabis sativa that is recognized and accepted by national law, and the THC of the plants must not go beyond the limits established by the directive and also must not contain properties that may negatively impact on citizens’ health.