In early January, Italian marijuana activists collected over 600,00 signatures in just one week to place a marijuana referendum on the country’s ballot for this upcoming spring. The referendum proposal sought to legalize 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 cannabis.
Once enough signatures were collected, the proposal was sent to the Supreme Court of Cassation for validation; from there, the policy proposal was sent to the Constitutional Court to determine whether it conflicted with the Italian Constitution.
The Constitutional Court ruled the policy proposal unconstitutional. Giuliano Amato, the Constitutional Court president, released a statement stating the referendum included other narcotics that are considered hard drugs. The other narcotics included in the proposal were psychoactive plants and fungi like psilocybin mushrooms. “This is enough to make us violate multiple international obligations which are an indisputable limitation of the Constitution,” Amato told a news conference. While advocates were confident that the limited scope of the proposed reform would satisfy the legal standard, the 15-judge court disagreed.
“This is not a defeat of us and of the hundreds of thousands of citizens who signed up for legal cannabis,” the referendum campaign committee, Cannabis Legale, said in a Facebook post. “Today’s first and foremost is a defeat for the Institutions that are no longer able to comprehend a major part of this country.” Since the Court’s decision, activists have regrouped, arguing that the court’s justification for blocking the referendum was partly due to a misunderstanding about which sections of the country’s drug code the proposal would amend.
Italy once again has missed out on the opportunity to move forward in the process of legalizing marijuana. Just last year, Italy was on track to become the first EU state to legalize marijuana because Italy’s House Justice Committee advanced a separate reform that would decriminalize small-scale home cultivation of marijuana for personal use. However, the first EU state to legalize marijuana was Malta after they enacted reform in December.
Several other EU states have also continued their efforts in legalizing marijuana. The new coalition government of Germany recently unveiled some initial details about its marijuana legalization plan. Last year in Luxembourg, the ministers of Justice and Homeland Security unveiled a legalization proposal, also.
Overall, it is exciting to continually see marijuana legalization efforts at the international level. The time to legalize the drug has come, and activists such as Cannabis Legale, who are committed to educating the public on the marijuana plant, will continue their efforts until legalization passes.