A new decree that overhauls Italy's drugs laws paves the way for releasing "thousands of convicted smalltime drug dealers from prison". The move follows parliamentary approval of a decree earlier this month that overhauls Italy's drugs laws and reclassifies marijuana as a soft rather than a hard narcotic. The new law also effectively removes jail time as a sentence for smalltime dealers, offering community service and other options in its place. (See also: Council of Europe lauds Italian moves on prison overcrowding)
Italy wants its army to grow cheap marijuana from next year in a bid to discourage medicinal users from funding illegal street dealers. A high-security military compound lab is earmarked for growing cannabis for the national healthcare system despite criticism from leading political and religious figures. Since the medical use of marijuana was legalised last year, the government have been on the hunt to keep costs down as few people could afford to sign up for the pharmacy scheme. (See also: To grow cheap marijuana, Italy calls in the army)
Italy took a first step toward legalization of pot, leading Europe in what would be a groundbreaking change. The Intergrupo Parlamentare Cannabis Legale, a cross-party committee, agreed on a provisional text to legalize the consumption, growing, production and sale of cannabis under certain conditions. The text was signed by 218 members of parliament, and not just by the usual suspects. The proposal would allow growing cannabis at home or as members of "cannabis clubs" where a maximum of 50 people could cultivate and then share the product, with a strict prohibition on selling to the general public. (See also: Bill would legalize marijuana)
Turin's city council has approved a motion in favour of making the drug legal for therapeutic purposes, making it the first of Italy's large cities to do so. The proposal is an appeal to the Italian parliament that they "move from a prohibitionist structure to one where soft drugs, particularly cannabis, are legally produced and distributed". This means that while the vote doesn't make it legal to consume, buy or sell cannabis for individual use yet, it paves the way for a more tolerant view of the drug in the eyes of the law.
Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino said he was in favour of decriminalizing cannabis, calling for a national and international reform on drug laws in order to fight organized crime. said he was “in favour of the possibility of the liberalization of cannabis for medical or personal use.” He was speaking at the Eighth Annual Conference of the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy in Rome. Beyond the capital he also advocated broader reform of drug laws both in Italy and abroad. (See also: Italy relaxes cannabis penalties)
On February 12, the Constitutional Court ruled that the Fini-Giovanardi law setting out penalties related to the sale and possession of illegal drugs, was improperly approved, and abrogated the law. Since then, Italy has returned to previous regulations that imposed lighter sanctions on cannabis users. Prisoners' rights organisations argued that harsh drug laws have created a booming prison population in a system that is already overcrowded. Since January 2013, Italy's prisons have been under the scrutiny of the European Court of Human Rights.