The Italian authorities certified last Wednesday that the popular initiative which seeks to legalize cannabis in Italy has collected enough signatures to be put to a referendum next spring. However, there is still a procedural step before the measure is officially presented to voters.
About three months after the defenders of the cause submitted the approximately 630,000 signatures, the Supreme Court of Cassation informed the campaign that it had validated them.
Now that the signatures are confirmed, the referendum will go to the separate Constitutional Court, which will determine the legality of the proposal’s provisions. This opinion will be given on February 15 and, if it is deemed legal, the government will set a date for the vote.
“While we wait for final validation… we are already beginning to organize a national mobilization to inform all citizens that cannabis should be legalized,” the campaign said in a Facebook post.
The Constitutional Court will now examine whether the measure conflicts with the Constitution, the country’s tax system or the international treaties to which Italy is attached. The lawyers are convinced that they have sufficiently limited the scope of the proposed reform to meet legal standards.
If the courts allow the referendum, voters should have the opportunity to vote on the policy change between April 15 and June 15.
What does the Italian cannabis legalization proposal contain?
The Italian proposal would completely end the criminalization of the cultivation of cannabis, but it would maintain a decriminalized fine for the possession and use of this substance.
Under this proposal, the processing of cannabis would also remain criminalized. Products like hashish would continue to be banned. Nor would there be a system for the legal and regulated sale of cannabis.
Activists were able to gather so many signatures so quickly, thanks in part to a change in policy that allowed them to collect signatures online rather than only in person.
“We believe that the fact that we were able to collect more than 500,000 signatures online in one week will be taken into consideration as a strong request to modify an unreasonable set of prohibitions in our laws,” said Marco Perduca, chairman of the committee. Referendum, at Marijuana Moment.
He added that the validation of the signature by the Court of Cassation “marks a historic event” in Italian history.
If the referendum passes, a simple majority vote will be required for it to pass.
A growing interest in Europe for legalization
Italy would not be the first European country to legalize cannabis. The smallest member of the European Union, Malta, indeed adopted this reform last month.
Germany’s new coalition government also recently unveiled some initial details about its plan to legalize cannabis, although the reform is expected to take some time to roll out.
In Luxembourg, ministers of justice and internal security unveiled a legalization proposal last year, which will still have to be voted on by parliament, but is expected to be adopted. For now, the country is focusing on legalization in a domestic setting. Parliament is expected to vote on the proposal in early 2022, and ruling parties favor the reform.