CBD in Italy: From Widely Available to Banned… And Back Again?

3rd November 2020

Laws surrounding CBD – the most prevalent non-psychotropic cannabinoid produced by the cannabis plant – are far from straightforward, no matter what country you might find yourself in. However, the subject has become a matter of particular confusion in Italy over the last few months…

We are going to be taking a look at the current guidelines and laws surrounding the compound in Italy, and trying to understand what this means for connected industries.

Is CBD now classed as a narcotic in Italy?

Last month, the Italian Ministry of Health turned heads as they unveiled a decree that would add CBD to the country’s list of medicines. Although this may not seem very significant on its own, such a move could have far-reaching consequences for the country’s existing CBD industry.

For example, under this decree, cannabis extracts – including CBD – would only be available through special prescriptions. This would mean that products containing CBD would essentially be treated as narcotics unless a suitable prescription was presented for it. Consequently, existing CBD products would likely be removed from shelves and companies would be unable to continue in the sector.

The original decree was brought in to prepare for the introduction of cannabis-based medication Epidyolex to the Italian market.

The decree was accompanied by a separate order, issued by Italy’s Customs and Monopoly Agency, warning retailers “not to hold and sell … [flowers], oils, and resins or other products containing substances derived from hemp sativa.”

The Last-Minute Turn-Around

While many may have become reserved to the prospect of a substantially changed CBD landscape, Italy’s Ministry of Health announced a dramatic U-turn on the issue at the final hour. At the end of last month, the Minister of Health, Roberto Speranza, issued another decree, effectively nullifying the first.

The order from the Custom’s and Monopoly Agency to retailers has also been lifted.

CBD hemp extract

The last-minute turn-around may have been a necessity, in the end, as many critics pointed out the contradictions laid out by the CBD medicines decree and a previous decree announced in August which officially listed CBD as an agricultural product.

Details of the original decree had come under scrutiny prior to the reversal. For example, the decree implied that CBD was to be classified as a narcotic, even when present in industrial products with lower amounts of the compound.

The European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) and the Italian hemp federation, Federcanapa, have announced their agreement that high-concentration CBD products should only be available through prescription, however, they stress that non-medicinal concentrations of CBD which is present in industrial products as well as in food and supplements, is permitted under the country’s Industrial Hemp Law (242/2016).

Prior to the reversal of the decree, the EIHA and Federcanapa had announced that they were planning to fight the decision in Italy’s Regional Administrative Court.

Managing Director of the European Industrial Hemp Association, Lorenza Romanese, said:

“We welcome the change of direction that Italy took tonight, and we look forward to a fruitful discussion that should start shortly.”

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