A ruling by an Italian court earlier this month represents a huge break for the country’s hemp and CBD industry.
The decision made by the Lazio Regional Administrative Court on February 14 overturned what the panel deemed an “‘absurdly restrictive’ decree [that] meant hemp leaves and flowers were considered narcotics in the eyes of regulators.”
The upshot is that the decision “means that Italy’s national law now no longer contravenes the 2020 Kanavape ruling of the European Union’s Court of Justice (ECJ).”
In that ruling, the Court of Justice of the European Union “ruled that CBD is not a narcotic and that a member state cannot restrict the free movement of CBD products, and that CBD can be derived from the hemp flower.”
The decision by the Lazio administrative court earlier this month also means that Italy’s CBD and hemp industry, which led this court challenge, are now empowered to operate more freely, and without fear of regulatory meddling.
BusinessCann has more background on the lawsuit that led to the February 14 ruling by the Lazio court:
“In May 2022, four grassroots cannabis industry associations – Canapa Sativa Italia, Sardinia Cannabis, Resilienza Italia Onlus and Federcanapa – filed an appeal against a Ministerial Decree issued in January 2022. The decree in question amended an earlier decree from 2018 regarding the cultivation, harvesting and processing of medicinal plants. Effectively, the 2022 amendment sought to place the cultivation, processing and marketing of ‘non-narcotic’ hemp flowers and leaves back under the umbrella of narcotics, meaning operators would be required to seek authorisation from the Ministry of Health, or face penalties.”
Recreational cannabis remains illegal in Italy, although it is decriminalized.
An effort in Italy last year to legalize recreational pot was stymied on legal grounds, when the country’s Constitutional Court “rejected a request to hold a referendum on legalising the cultivation of cannabis, provoking the ire of promoters who called the decision a blow to democracy,” according to Reuters.
The proposed referendum “sought to legalise the growing of weed for personal use and ease sanctions on other cannabis-related crimes, with offenders no longer risking prison sentences for selling small amounts of the drug,” Reuters reported at the time, noting that the court’s president “said the referendum included other narcotics considered to be hard drugs, which could not be liberalised.”
Medical cannabis, however, is legal in Italy, and its production is the exclusive domain of the country’s military.
The Italian army has a directive to grow 700 kilograms, or a little more than 1,500 pounds, of medical marijuana this year as it acts as the chief overseer of the cultivation.
Medical cannabis that is not grown domestically by the Italian army is typically imported from other European countries, such as the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark.
The army’s ramp-up of cannabis production is designed to make Italy’s medical marijuana program more self-sufficient.
“The next step is self-sufficiency — that’s our ambition,” Nicola Latorre, who leads the Italian agency overseeing the cannabis operation, told DefenseNews last month.
But this month’s ruling by the Lazio Regional Administrative Court could also have implications on that arrangement.
Cannabis industry representatives told BusinessCann that the Italian Ministry of Health has taken a more positive position toward the importation of cannabis-based products, a shift that suggests “that the Italian army’s monopoly on cultivation of medical cannabis in Italy, which has consistently been unable to supply enough product to meet demand, could soon be broken.”