Tag Archives: light cannabis

Update: Italian Senate Steps Back on Light Cannabis

Optimism after last week’s news did not last very long.  The Italian Senate just approved its version of the Italian Budget Law for 2020 (still subject to the Italian House of Representatives’ vote) striking out the amendment clarifying that products with THC contents under 0.5% should not be considered as having a doping or psychotropic effect.

This quick turnaround was likely due to the highly political nature of the debate surrounding the whole industry, which may have influenced the Senate’s final decision on light cannabis business and, on a very different field, may as well still impact on the slow progress of the increase of the Italian production of therapeutic cannabis.

 

New Bill May Bring More Clarity for “Light Cannabis” Business

Italy has an uncertain scenario set forth for light cannabis (i.e. with THC levels below 0.2%) shops and businesses, after a recent decision of the Italian Supreme Court, last July.

The decision took a rather strict approach, specifying that, under current legislation (and especially, under Law 242/2016), only certain specific types of products may be considered legal, i.e.:

– food and cosmetics;

– certain semi-finished products, such as fiber (“fibra”), shives (“canapulo”), powders (“polveri”), wood chips (“cippato”), oils (“olii”) or fuels (“carburanti”), for supplies to businesses and artisanal businesses of different fields, including energy;

– material intended for the practice of green manure (“sovescio”);

– organic material intended for bioengineering works or products for bio-building;

– material intended for the phytoremediation to reclaim polluted sites;

– cultivations dedicated to educational and demonstration activities, as well as research carried out by public or private institutions;

– crops used for nursery gardening (“florovivaismo”).

Whatever falls outside the items listed above, even if the content of THC is below 0.2%, may be treated as an illegal drug with all relevant implications, especially under Italian criminal law – unless such products are proven to have no doping or psychotropic effect whatsoever.

It is not difficult to imagine the negative impact of such approach on business operators in Italy, which caused many of them to close, interrupt or suspend their activity, right after having experienced a quite impressive boom, leading to an estimated yearly turnover in 2018 of euro 150 million.

Just yesterday, nevertheless, the Budget Commission of the Italian Senate approved an amendment of the draft Budget Law for 2020 that, according to Senator Matteo Mantero, would clarify in express terms that products with a THC content under 0.5% cannot be considered as having a doping or psychotropic effect and, therefore, should be considered as legal. Of course, this measure will be linked to a specific taxation of all cannabinoid products (0.4 euro per gram of finished product), which is expected to bring benefits to Italy’s budget for 2020.

The specific amendment and the entire draft of the Budget Law for 2020 is still undergoing its approval process. We will keep an eye on it. Stay tuned for updates.

Therapeutic cannabis in Italy: business opportunities

Italy’s only authorized medical cannabis facility is currently controlled by the military. However, the production site, located in the Florence area, cannot keep up with the increasing demand, creating shortages for patients and barriers to its prescription by physicians (whose patients are unlikely to be able to obtain the quantities needed).

As Colonel Modica of the Italian Military recognizedThe health ministry and the defense ministry are trying to fix the shortfall because there’s been a huge increase in cannabis prescriptions and the number of patients who need them”.

Meanwhile, pressed by the patients’ associations, the Italian Health Care Ministry Giulia Grillo announced not only the increase of import of therapeutic cannabis products from the Netherlands (to cover the short-term shortages), but also the start of a longer-term project, eventually leading to the creation of a public-private partnership for the production of cannabis. “An invitation to present expressions of interest will be published in order to increase the production of therapeutic cannabis“, Ministry said. Although underlining that an appropriate time frame will be needed in order to implement the project, the Ministry confirmed that the cannabis production activity is “of great interest for both the Defense and the Public Health Care” and crucial in order to satisfy the increasing needs of both domestic and foreign markets.

The increase in the domestic production of therapeutic cannabis, along with the overall demand for it, appears to be inevitable.

On the other hand, the boom of “light cannabis” products in Italy (i.e., containing THC in a percentage lower than 0.2 and, therefore, expressly declared legal in Italy starting from January 2017) seems to have encountered some obstacles lately.

The Advisory Board of the Italian Health Care Ministry (Consiglio Superiore di Sanità) issued a report last spring, recommending the adoption of measures aimed at prohibiting the sale of light cannabis products.

In addition to that, an internal note of the Ministry of Home Affairs, recently made public, promoted a zero-tolerance approach and a strict application of the relevant laws and regulations. Such steps have caused great uncertainty and concerns amongst those who have invested in what came to the media’s attention in 2017 as a State-backed business.

Hence, the latest developments relating to therapeutic cannabis in Italy indicate that new business opportunities for both exporters and producers of cannabis-based prescriptions are likely to be offered in the Italian market. Conversely, serious questions can be raised in connection to the light-cannabis boom, in view of the inconsistent approach recently taken by Italian authorities.