In 2021, marijuana activists submitted a referendum with over 600,000 signatures to the Supreme Court of Cassation to legalize marijuana in Italy. Daniel Fung CT explains that this referendum also included the legalization of psychoactive plants and fungi like psilocybin mushrooms.
By January 2022, enough signatures had been collected to put the item on the upcoming ballot; however, the referendum still needed to be reviewed by another Constitutional Court to determine if the provisions were legal. Unfortunately, last Tuesday, the referendum was blocked for not meeting constitutional standards. For now, voters will not be able to have a say in the legalization of marijuana and other psychoactive plants.
Why the Referendum Didn’t Pass
One of the most important steps for any referendum to pass is determining if it conflicts with the country’s Constitution, the country’s fiscal system, or any international treaties Italy forms a part of. The 15-judge court determined that there was a conflict.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Giuliano Amato, the President of the High Court, said via translations that the referendum’s broad multi-drug language could “make us violate multiple international obligations which are an indisputable limitation of the Constitution.” He continued on to say, “…the referendum was not on cannabis, but on drugs. Reference was made to substances that include poppy, coca — the so-called hard drugs.”
What the Pro-Marijuana Activists Are Saying
Meanwhile, the referendum campaign committee fought back in a Facebook post, stating, “This is not a defeat of us and of the hundreds of thousands of citizens who signed up for legal cannabis. Today’s first and foremost is a defeat for the Institutions that are no longer able to comprehend a major part of this country.”
The post packed a final punch, finishing with, “…only the mafia wins today.” The campaign committee promises to keep fighting towards marijuana legalization.
What Was Included in the Marijuana Referendum?
If passed, the referendum aimed to legalize the cultivation of several plant-based drugs, including marijuana and psilocybin; however, it would also leave an intact law in place prohibiting any additional processing of the drugs.
Under the referendum, drugs like hashish would be affected. Marijuana on its own is a raw plant with a 10-20% level of THC, the psychoactive compound that produces the “high.” Marijuana requires an extra manufacturing step to become hashish. This is a denser version of marijuana with THC levels ranging from 20- 60 percent.
If it had gotten the green light, the referendum would have also kept the current clause which provides decriminalized fines for possessing and using marijuana.
What About Other European Countries?
Malta pushed through a reform last December legalizing cannabis. Recently in Germany, the new coalition government discussed the steps needed to enact a marijuana legalization plan.
The Ministers of Justice and Homeland Security in Luxembourg also revealed a legalization proposal last year. It still requires a vote in the Parliament but is expected to pass in early 2022.
The initial deadline for Marijuana activists to turn in signatures for next year’s referendum was September 30th. It has since been extended due to signature processing complications. If the referendum receives enough signatures, it can be viewed by the Italian court again next year.