Despite Obstacles, Italian Cannabis Supporters Optimistic on Legalization

“Everything is possible, even to believe in the existence of a better world,” sings Vasco Rossi, a popular Italian rock musician who, along with Mafia expert Roberto Saviano, recently endorsed a plan to legalize cannabis in the country. A rally in Rome closed a nationwide campaign to gather signatures in support of a proposal to decriminalize possession and cultivation of cannabis and to authorize cannabis social clubs.

Luca Marola, manager of the Canapaio Ducal grow shop, in Parma, told Leafly she’s confident about the measure’s chances for success. “In the last days of the campaign to support the legalization progress, 600 volunteers collected 17,500 signatures in more than 20 cities,” she said, “sending a clear message of popular support to the Parliament’s Intergroup Legal Cannabis.”

The mayors of Torino and Parma signed their support, as did Naples Mayor Luigi De Magistris, who is a member of a European conference of anti-prohibitionist mayors and local government officials pushing for cannabis reform.

The campaign’s closing rally was held in Rome’s central Campo dei Fiori square on Oct. 22. It was a remarkable event, in part because of the location. A statue in the middle of the square remembers the stake at which philosopher Giordano Bruno was burnt to death on orders of the Vatican in 1600. The Campo dei Fiori is a common meeting point in Rome, with its bohemian atmosphere making it an excellent place to gather signatures for legal cannabis.

“It will not be in October or even before the end of 2016, but Italy is heading for a radical paradigm shift.”

Patrizio Gonnella, human rights advocate and radio host

Legalization remains controversial in Italy, but not in Palermo. The City Council in the capital of Sicily unanimously approved a motion launched by Alessandro Mangano “ to launch a strong political message to all MPs for a quick approval of the law draft being discussed.” Mangano represents a small political group, Italy of the Values, founded by Antonio Di Pietro, a former police officer and magistrate who unveiled a widespread network of corruption in the 1990s and called for a “clean hands revolution” similar to the later Five Star Movement.

“With this vote, the council has demonstrated that the respect of civil and human rights are the premise of a policy that puts the person at the center,” Mangano told Leafly. “Legalizing cannabis and decriminalizing the use of soft drugs is an act of civilization but also an instrument to more effectively fight the Mafia organizations that are still powerful. Let us wish that the Italian Parliament will live up to the expectations.”

It’s an argument endorsed by Patrizio Gonnella of Antigone, a Rome-based NGO that focuses on human rights in prisons. Gonnella, who hosts a radio show called Jailhouse Rock, told Leafly that “beyond the next uncertain legislative exits, conditioned by the political situation monopolized by the discussion around the constitutional referendum, it’s important to point out that the argument is not confined to the margins of the world of justice, media and society.

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“It will not be in October or even before the end of 2016, but Italy is heading for a radical paradigm shift,” Gonnella said. “The majority of experts, even judiciary, admit that the punishment paradigm has failed from many points of view.”

Despite the many obstacles still ahead, Daniele Farina, vice president of Parliament’s Justice Commission, wrote on Facebook earlier this month that “the over 1,600 presented amendments don’t offer any particular contributions, being almost exclusively obstructionist, and do not represent any particular hindrance to overcome.”

“It will again be necessary to break the obstruction of those that would like to have the new law postponed forever,” Farina added. “It’s painful to remember that while the medieval preachers wave their worn-out arguments, and too many MPs hesitate, even in 2016 the illicit cannabis market will still deliver many billions of euros to criminal organizations. This has to stop.”

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