EU Watch

Legalisation or Prohibition? Here's Where Italy's Political Parties Stand on Cannabis

In order to help voters make an informed decision on election day, 4 March, Liberties member the Italian Coalition for Civil Liberties and Rights (CILD) has researched each party's position on marijuana legalisation.

by Federica Brioschi

Marijuana is the most-used illegal drug in Italy, notwithstanding the prohibitionism that has characterised the drug policies crafted by Italian authorities during the last 25 years.

A costly fight

As a result of the current legal framework, it has been calculated that Italy spends around 1.5 billon euros per year for police operations and for other costs related to prisons, trials and tribunals. The Anti-Drug Policy Agency estimates the value of drug-related activities as being around 0.9% of the Italian GDP. These resources end up in the hands of organised crime groups and drug traffickers instead of in the Italian treasury, which could reinvest the money in harm reduction, information, education and welfare.

It is also very difficult to obtain medical marijuana: only a few doctors prescribe it, the pharmacies equipped to prepare the drugs prescribed by the doctors are similarly few in number, and, most importantly, there is never enough in stock. In fact, over the last few months, many people have had to turn to foreign sellers or stop their treatment altogether.

The state of things

Currently, the personal use of "soft drugs" is punishable by an administrative fine, while the possession of drugs with intent to distribute is punishable by a prison sentence of between six months and 20 years, depending on the type of drug and amount involved.

Moreover, it is still a crime to cultivate marijuana plants. Although medical use is legalised, it is very difficult to get access to cannabis-based products prescribed by a doctor. The current legislature has made some positive developments regarding the production of cannabis by the state, which was granted more higher funds to meet the demand for medical consumption (but failing to do so). Moreover, private firms have now the permission to produce cannabis for medical use under the control of AIFA.

Where the parties stand

CILD’s research on the position of each party was carried out through an analysis of their programs or, if the issue is not mentioned, through an analysis of their positions during the current legislature. Here the main results:

  • Centre-right coalition: The centre-right coalition (Forza Italia, Lega, Fratelli d’Italia) presented a shared programme for these elections, but drug-related issues are not mentioned.
    • Forza Italia: In the current legislature Forza Italia has opposed both the legalisation of recreational and medical marijuana discussed in Parliament.
    • Lega: In the current legislature, Lega has opposed both the legalisation of recreational and medical marijuana.
    • Fratelli d’Italia: In the latest legislature Fratelli d’Italia has opposed both the legalisation of recreational and medical marijuana discussed in Parliament.
  • Centre-left coalition: The centre-left coalition (Partito Democratico, +Europa) has different positions on the issue.
    • Partito Democrartico: In the programme of Partito Democratico, the issue is not mentioned and it is not clear what position the party will take.
    • +Europa: +Europa’s programme mentions the promotion of strategies for the legalisation and regulation of drug use and strategies for harm reduction, with the aim to protect the health of citizens and to fight organised crime.
  • Movimento 5 stelle: The issue is not mentioned in the programme of Movimento 5 stelle, but during the current legislature, the party has spoken out in favour of medical marijuana.
  • Liberi e Uguali: The issue is not mentioned in the programme of Liberi e Uguali, but during the current electoral campaign, Daniele Farina, the rapporteur for the legal proposal for the legalisation of cannabis, has spoken in favour of a law to legalise recreational cannabis.
  • Potere al Popolo: The programme of Potere al Popolo includes the legalisation of "soft drugs" and the decriminalisation of the consumption of all drugs.
  • Casapound: The programme of Casapound does not include any reference to the issue. In one interview, the leader of the party, Di Stefano, declared that the party has no official position even if it is ethically contrary to a State that sells drugs. It isn’t contrary to medical marijuana, as the research has pointed out the benefits for sick people.
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