Italian Supreme Court on marijuana
Italian Supreme Court on marijuana

Fanculo Alla Corte Suprema! - Italy's Supreme Court Strikes Down Recreational Marijuana

Why did the Italian Surpeme court squash plans for recreational cannabis in Italy?

Posted by:
Lemon Knowles on Friday Feb 25, 2022

Italy Supreme Court on weed

Italy's supreme court has stopped all ongoing plans to legalize recreational cannabis across the region. Before this, a referendum was set to be included in the election's ballots for voters to decide whether or not marijuana should be made legal in the country. The ruling of the top Italian court last Tuesday blocked all proposed marijuana and psilocybin measures from being placed before voters.


A Temporal Defeat

The plans to decriminalize adult-use cannabis in the country have faced an uphill battle since they kicked off. The bill's objective is to legalize the self-cultivation of psychoactive plants, specifically cannabis, and psychedelics, specifically psilocybin mushrooms.


First off, advocates were faced with the challenge of getting public support for the bill from the voters and finally succeeded in gathering over 600,000 signatures last year. The signatures were submitted to the Supreme Court of Cassation. Last month, the turned-in signatures were finally validated by the courts. This would have signified progress in the plans. However, the court declared that the submitted votes were insufficient to get the referendum on a ballot. The court also pointed out that the referendum must be reviewed by another constitutional court to determine if its provisions and language meet the country's legal standards.


The Constitutional Court ruled that the cannabis and psilocybin measures do not meet the legal standards of the constitution, which means that all plans are effectively terminated. At the same time, the court announced another rejection of a medical initiative that seeks to give fatally ill patients the right to euthanasia.


For cannabis lovers and advocates in the country, this is a temporary setback. They can start afresh to ensure the initiative will be out there before the voters soon enough.


The Next Step

The most practical step for cannabis advocate groups now is to take a break to regroup and then relaunch the project. In a Facebook post a few hours after the court's ruling was publicized, the referendum campaign committee expressed its disappointment at the court's decision. It described the decision as a "win for the mafia." The committee said they do not see this ruling as defeating the cannabis advocacy groups and the thousands of Italians who signed the petition. They wrote that this defeat is for federal institutions that have refused to understand an essential part of the country.


This is the country's first and foremost recreational cannabis initiative to be shut down by the top courts. The referendum campaign groups have announced that they will be coming back stronger to fight for a legal adult-use cannabis market. They promised that the next measure would be the last.


The Legal Standard

The Constitutional Court is tasked with ensuring that all proposed legislation or referendums do not conflict with the existing constitutions, fiscal systems, and international laws. The cannabis reform campaign members were confident that the initiative would sail through this court, but the fifteen involved judges disagreed, as shown in their ruling.


The proposed reform was quite unlike the regular ballot initiatives that have been included and approved on ballots in the United States. The language suggested that Italians cultivate a couple of plant-based recreational drugs but failed to state prohibitions on how the said drugs would be processed. However, this would not impact the legality of marijuana and entheogenic drugs like psilocybin, as they do not require additional processing or manufacturing.


Drugs like hashish would be banned because they are produced from raw marijuana flowers. The bill would have also kept the existing penalties for possessing and using more than the allowed amount of cannabis. The current liabilities include a fine and, in extreme cases, an indictment.


Violation of International Obligations

Constitutional Court President Giuliano Amato said that the country would have found itself in a compromising situation if the bill had been approved. Italy is a party to several international bodies and is obligated to maintain specific laws. The measure's multi-drug scope would result in a direct violation of these international laws.


Amano pointed out that these obligations are undisputable limitations included in the constitution. The aim of the reform was unsuitable for the existing constitution. He stressed that the referendum was not limited to marijuana but encompassed drugs like poppy and even coca—one of the most addictive drugs.


The advocacy team debated that the court's ruling was due to a misconception of which provisions of the constitution's drug code would be affected by the proposal.


The Buildup to This Moment

When the activists introduced the proposal to the legislature, they were granted until the end of September to submit the required signatures to push the referendum to the ballots. An extension was given when a complication relating to the processing of signatures arose. The new method of collecting signatures online instead of in-person is one of the reasons why the campaign was able to gather hundreds of thousands of votes in such a limited period.


While all this was going on, the House Justice Committee has advanced a bill to decriminalize the personal cultivation of marijuana on a small scale. The reform is yet to progress beyond this point. Meanwhile, Malta has successfully become the first European country to legalize cannabis. The small-government approved the reform a few days before the end of 2021.


Germany is also gearing up to legalize cannabis in a few years. The new coalition government announced that a marijuana legalization bill is paramount. For now, the plan is being stalked to address the never-ending issues of the COVID-19 pandemic. On the other hand, Luxembourg's parliament is set to vote on a cannabis legalization proposal before the end of the first quarter.


Final Note

It is not unusual for the court to clamp down on initial initiatives to amend existing laws. This occurrence is expected in the U.S.


Italy's cannabis advocacy groups have promised to work on the faulty and incompatible guidelines highlighted by the top Italian constitutional court. They will focus more on drafting a perfect reform that would scale through legal obstacles.

Don't rule out the possibility of the legislative chambers working on other reforms while the advocacy campaigns prepare to kick off again.








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