By / October 14, 2020

The regulatory framework for ‘cannabis light’ in Italy

In recent years, many regulatory changes have become a reality in Italy. Some of these, such as those surrounding legal cannabis, can rightly be called revolutionary.

This article is about legal non-medical cannabis, notably what we call ‘cannabis light’ or low THC content cannabis. The regulatory references, in fact, are very different, and it is important to discuss those related to non-medical cannabis.

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2017, a turning point for the Italian cannabis market

The Italian turning point on legal cannabis came with Law 242/2016, which officially entered into force in January 2017. To be precise, we remind you that it is a law containing “Provisions for the promotion of cultivation and the agro-industrial chain of hemp”.

It is a legal decree that has become a pragmatic reality, with the aim of enhancing the sustainable character of hemp. It has totally changed the ground-rules for the cultivation of cannabis Sativa for industrial use.

Let us now dive into the heart of the most important frameworks of the law. We remind you that the first establishes that in Italy only the cultivation of cannabis varieties included in the common catalog of varieties of agricultural plant species is allowed.

Breakdown of the key points of the 2017 legislation.

In the second article of the law however, emphasis is placed on the fact that the cultivation of the aforementioned cannabis strains is allowed without requiring any authorization.

Regarding this provision, over the years various ‘best practices’ guidelines have been released which recommend self-reporting anyway. Should this alternative be followed, the reference points are the State Forestry Corps and the Guardia di Finanza .

Article 2 of Law 242/2016 also focused on products that can be obtained from so called ‘cannabis light’. Obviously this includes things like cosmetics, but also food and, not to forget, the material useful for bio-engineering projects.

A proper focus must be devoted to article 4 as well, in which questions of sanctions are examined. Here they specify that there is no punishment or sanction is imposed if, following a quality control test, a percentage of THC between 0.2% and 0.6% is found.

Going back for a moment to article 3, it is necessary to mention a binding obligation for the grower, who is required to keep, for at least 12 months, the tags of the seeds he has purchased.

This obligation has two objectives: to favor the efficiency of controls by the Police and to optimize the traceability of the final product. As for seeds, it is worth mentioning that only certain authorized companies can produce and market them. One more built in method for government control and oversight.

Developments over the last few years

The Law 242/2016 has certainly simplified the Italian regulatory framework regarding legal cannabis. Worthy of note in this regard are Court case rulings issued between 2018 and 2019, after which what many call Matteo Salvini’s anti-cannabis crusade began.

At the time of his stint as Minister of the Interior, the current secretary of the Northern League has repeatedly spoken out against the trade in ‘light cannabis’. All this translated into a Circular (memo) from the Interior Ministry dating back to May 2019, which spoke of the illegitimacy of the light cannabis trade, both the inflorescences and the derivative products.

This Circular has had concrete effects on the new hemp economy businesses: several grow shops, in fact, have closed their doors permanently or temporarily to protest.

The regulatory framework changed further in December 2019. Thanks to the Five Star Movement, and the Senator Matteo Mantero in particular, an amendment aimed at formalizing the trade of ‘cannabis light’ was rejected in the senate. The provision would have clarified the maximum THC threshold at .5% across all parts of the plant – from flowers to leaves and resin. Blocking it will hardly slow the growing trade, but it will certainly complicated matters for businesses and regulators alike.


(Featured image by Tree of Life Seeds via Pexels)

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