Italian Interior Minister Declares War on Legal Cannabis Shops

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini declared on May 8 that the government will shut down every legal cannabis shop in the country “one by one.” For over two years, Italian authorities have allowed the sale of low potency cannabis to a degree, but those days may be over soon.

Salvini is described by local media as a hardline far-right populist.  Italy’s far-right Lega party dominates the government along with the Five Star Movement, a rival, forming an unusual coalition party alliance.

“From today, I’ll go to war on cannabis street by street, shop by shop, neighborhood by neighborhood, city by city,” Salvini announced, elevating the situation to a national emergency. The interior minister also said that if the Five Star Movement attempts to legalize cannabis, he’ll shut down the government. “Enough,” Five Star deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio said in response. “We are all against drugs, but now Italian citizens are tired of these threats to the government.”

Since 2016, Italian retailers can legally sell cannabis containing 0.2 percent of less of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Lawmakers in Italy call it “light” cannabis, which is basically identical to hemp, and doesn’t generate a high. While there is virtually no significant amounts of THC in light cannabis, CBD products are flying off the shelves. Italy raked in €6.5 million in light cannabis sales during 2018, and 300 stores selling CBD cannabis products have opened in 2018.

One day after Salvini’s announcement, three cannabis shops were raided in the city of Macerate, Italy. According to police, some of the cannabis exceeded the 0.2 percent legal limit of THC.

Italy isn’t the only European country to allow low potency cannabis. Switzerland has allowed the sale of low potency cannabis sold in pillows or satchels for decades, even in supermarkets. Belgium also began allowing low potency cannabis in July 2018. It appears at this point, low potency cannabis products won’t last much longer in Italy under its current leadership.

 

 

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