Italian officials certified on Wednesday that activists collected enough signatures to place a marijuana legalization referendum on the country’s ballot this spring—though there’s still one more procedural step before the measure will officially be on its way to voters.
About three months after advocates turned in about 630,000 signatures for the measure—which would also legalize personal cultivation of other psychoactive plants and fungi like psilocybin mushrooms—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. That opinion will be issued on February 15, and if deemed legal, the government will set a date for the vote.
“While we wait for the final ok…we’re starting to organize a national mobilization to inform all citizens that cannabis is better legal,” the campaign said in a Facebook post about Wednesday’s court announcement on the signatures.
The Constitutional Court will now look into whether the measure would conflict with the Constitution, the country’s fiscal system or international treaties to which Italy is a party. Advocates are confident that they limited the scope of the proposed reform enough to meet the legal standard.
If the courts allow the referendum to move forward, voters are expected to be given the chance to decide on the policy change sometime between April 15 and June 15.
The referendum is fairly unique compared to U.S. ballot initiatives that have been enacted. The Italian proposal would fully end the criminalization of growing of cannabis but it would maintain a current decriminalized fine on possessing and using it.
Under the proposal, drug processing would also remain criminalized. And that means things like hashish would continue to be prohibited because it takes a degree of manufacturing to create the product. There would also be no system of legal and regulated cannabis sales.
Activists initially faced a September 30 deadline to turn in signatures to make next year’s referendum, but complications related to the processing of signatures at the local level led to an extension being granted.
Part of the reason activists were able to gather so many signatures so quickly is a policy change that allowed them to collect signatures online instead of in person only.
“We believe that the fact that we were able to collect over 500,000 signatures online in a week will be taken into consideration as a strong request to change an unreasonable set of prohibitions from our books,” Marco Perduca, president of the referendum committee, told Marijuana Moment.
He added that the Court of Cassation signature validation “marks a historic event” in Italian history.
Should the referendum make the ballot, a simple majority vote will be required to have it enacted.
Separately, Italy’s House Justice Committee advanced a separate reform last year that would decriminalize small-scale home cultivation of marijuana for personal use.
Italy missed out on being the first European country to legalize cannabis after the smallest EU member, Malta, enacted the reform last month.
The new coalition government of Germany has also recently unveiled some initial details about its marijuana legalization plan, even if the reform is taking a back seat to efforts to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
In Luxembourg, the ministers of justice and homeland security last year unveiled a legalization proposal, which will still require a vote in the Parliament but is expected to pass. For now, the country is focusing on legalization within a home setting. Parliament is expected to vote on the proposal in early 2022, and the ruling parties are friendly to the reform.
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