Italy’s supreme court rules home-growing cannabis for personal consumption legal

Italy’s supreme court has ruled that cultivating cannabis on a small scale for personal use is legal – but the landmark judgement faces opposition in the Senate.

After being asked to clarify previous conflicting interpretations of the law, the Court of Cassation decided that the crime of growing narcotic drugs should exclude “small amounts grown domestically for the exclusive use of the grower”.

The ruling was made on 19 December but was not reported by local news outlets until Thursday.

In response, Matteo Mantero, a senator from the governing coalition party, 5-Star, presented an amendment to the 2020 budget calling for legalisation and regulation of domestic cannabis use. However, it was ruled inadmissible by the senate speaker from Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative Forza Italia party.

“Drugs cause harm, forget about growing them or buying them in shops,” Matteo Salvini, leader of the hard-right League Party, said in a statement, in reference to shops selling low-strength “legal weed” that are widespread in Italy.

Maurizio Gasparri, a senator from Forza Italia which is allied to the League, said the first law the centre-Right coalition would approve if it came to power “will cancel the absurd verdict of the court”.

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In 2008, the Court of Cassation ruled the cultivation of cannabis plants to be illegal, irrespective of whether it was for commercial use or for purely private use, but different courts at different levels have been issuing contradictory judgments.  

This month’s case came before the Court of Cassation last October when a 29-year-old Neapolitan lodged an appeal against the findings of the Naples Court of Appeal, which had sentenced him to a one-year sentence for having grown two cannabis plants, from which he made a joint.

The new verdict effectively overturns the Naples ruling, stating that while the growing of cannabis plants remains illegal, if it is being grown for personal consumption then no law has been broken.  

But it does not necessarily follow that every other court in Italy will follow the line established by this latest ruling from the Supreme Court.

Groups and organisations that work to combat drug dependency have denounced the ruling. The conservative Livatino Study Centre on Sunday argued that the ruling represented an “alarming disassociation from reality”, citing research showing that cannabis is the most widely used drug among young Italians. 

“To rule that the domestic cultivation of drugs is legal… shows a worrying disassociation from reality as well as being hypocritical, given that the increased defusion of drugs everyday kills more innocent victims.”

Clearly these conservatives would rather cannabis consumers continue to get their cannabis from the mafia rather than access it safely and cheaply.

Elsewhere, many public figures and Leftist politicians welcomed the ruling. Former Radical and current party secretary of the pro-European “Piu Europa” party, Benedetto Dalla Vedova, called it a ruling “full of good sense”. He said: “Now that we have legalised cannabis, society will be more secure because billions have been taken from the revenues of organised crime.”

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