Talks are underway to legalize cannabis in Italy, and they’re coming with plenty of contention.
The Italian parliament on Monday kicked off discussions of legalizing recreational marijuana, Reuters reported. The bill, backed by the likes of Democratic Party deputies and the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, would allow for people to carry up to 5 grams of cannabis, keep 15 grams at home, cultivate up to five plants and form social groups of up to 50 growers, according to the report.
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Proponents argue that legalization will take “billions of euros” out of criminals’ hands and convert that to tax revenue, according to translated statements made by Senator and Secretary for Foreign Affairs Benedetto Della Vedova on Facebook.
The opposition, which includes the Roman Catholic Church and the New Centre Right party members, already has filed 1,300 amendments to the bill, Reuters reported:
Most of the amendments were demanded by a parliamentary grouping including the New Centre Right (NCD) party, which governs in coalition with (Prime Minister Matteo) Renzi’s PD and has clashed with the premier over social issues including gay civil unions.
“We are absolutely opposed to this legislation, to the message it puts across: that anyone can freely smoke a spliff,” prominent NCD deputy Maurizio Lupi in a statement.
Among the detractors is Pope Francis, who previously condemned drug addiction and its effect on youth.
When addressing a drug enforcement conference in Rome in 2014, Pope Francis said there should be “no yielding or compromise” in the conversation on drug addiction, according to a Reuters report at the time:
“The scourge of drug use continues to spread inexorably, fed by a deplorable commerce which transcends national and continental borders,” he said. “Attempts, however limited, to legalize so-called ‘recreational drugs,’ are not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce the desired effects,” the pope said.
Italy’s recreational cannabis bill has been hailed by pro-legalization groups such as the Drug Policy Alliance, which said that legalization in Italy could be a “catalyst” for Europe.
“Italy has rarely if ever provided leadership in Europe on drug policy reform,” Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the U.S.-based Drug Policy Alliance, said in a press release, “which is why this bill, if it becomes law, will be of great significance not just within Italy but regionally and even globally.
“With five more U.S. states preparing to vote on marijuana legalization on November 8, and Canada poised to legalize marijuana next year, Italy could well provide the catalyst that Europe needs to move forward in ending marijuana prohibition.”
The parliament will re-open debate in September, according to the Reuters report.