By Roland Sebestyén
Campaigners and advocates celebrate the first big win as the Italian Cassation Court has officially verified the signatures collected to trigger a national referendum on the legalisation of recreational cannabis.
Italian campaigners got the first big “OK” in order for them to hold a historic vote on liberalising the country’s cannabis market.
The Cassation Court has announced that the number of valid signatures did indeed reach the number necessary (500,000) to hold the referendum.
As campaigners had gathered more than 630,000 signatures over the last few months, it was highly likely that the Cassation Court would grant a sort of “green light”. Confirmation of this will allow those behind the movement to take the next steps.
The case will be handled by the Constitutional Court, which will make its decision (recommendation) on February 15 – if they find it legal, the government will set a date for the referendum. It is expected to go ahead later this year, somewhere between April 15 and June 15.
Campaigners reacting (and celebrating) on Facebook said: “While we wait for the final OK we can’t stay hands in hand, so we’re starting to organise a national mobilisation to inform all citizens that cannabis is better legal.”
Speaking with Canex a few weeks ago, Marco Perduca, a former senator, from the Luca Coscioni Association and current chair of the Legal Cannabis Referendum Promoting Committee, said the aim is to liberate the country and not “incite drug use.”
The aim is to develop a different approach to the drug.
He said: “MP: The reason for this referendum is linked to the fact that Italy has changed its drug laws a few times over the last 30 years. The current law is responsible for our prisons being massively overcrowded.
“In percentage, Italy has possibly one of the smallest penitentiary circuits in the world. Our prisons are designed to host 45,000 people in a country that has 60 million people. Over the years, in particular, after the 1990 law was toughened in 2006, the new law was responsible for the incarceration of 38% of the people behind bars.
“While not a single change has been proposed by the government, at the same time, a lot of people have decided to use illicit substances – mostly cannabis. There are some eight million drug users in Italy and at least a third of the population have tried illicit substances in their lifetimes.”
Mr Perduca added that while hashish, for example, will not be decriminalised, growing coca leaf for personal use would not be punished – and the same goes for psilocybin use.
If the referendum passes and the public voter in favour of the changes, “magic mushrooms” would also be decriminalised.