Italian government in ‘grotesque crackdown’ on CBD, other flower-based products

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The Italian government of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has taken aim at industrial hemp in legislation that would wipe out CBD and all other products derived from the plant’s flowers.

The proposal would ban hemp flowers from “import, processing, possession, transfer, distribution, trade, transport, dispatch, delivery, sale to the public and for consumption, even in semi-finished, dried or shredded form,” according to language in a draft amendment to country’s controversial Security Bill.

Calling the measure “a grotesque crackdown,” leading trade group Federcanapa said its provisions “prohibit any productive and commercial activity connected to hemp inflorescences even with low or no THC content.”

Severe impacts

If enacted, the law would entirely block the hemp extract subsector, affecting CBD and other non-psychoactive hemp cannabinoids used in herbal medicine, cosmetics and food supplements, according to Beppe Croce, Federcanapa’s president.

Some parliamentarians and other experts said enactment of the amendment, which would also outlaw flower and flower-based production for export, would bring the closure of 3,000 businesses and idle 15,000 workers.

Sweeping legislation that emerged in 2023, Italy’s Security Bill encompasses a wide range of issues, including law enforcement, prison conditions, immigration, and even public demonstrations. It strengthens law enforcement’s powers and creates harsher criminal penalties that could be applied to violations of the hemp amendment.

Against EU law

Federcanapa said it will appeal to the members of the Constitutional Affairs and Justice Commissions, responsible for examining the text of the law, not to approve the amendment. Giacomo Bulleri, a legal expert for the trade group, said the amendment is contrary to EU law and exposes Italy to possible infringement procedures by the European Union, which has affirmed the legality of products derived from hemp flowers.

In a legally binding ruling applicable across the Union, the European Commission declared in 2020 that CBD is not a narcotic and may be legally traded in and among member states. That ruling was based on a celebrated European Union Court of Justice finding to that effect made earlier in the same year.

However, that has not stopped Italian officials from repeatedly taking aim at CBD and other cannabinoids as well as “cannabis light” – low THC flower material processed for smoking.

Flips and flops

In October 2020 the Ministry of Health classified CBD as a narcotic and banned the compound from the Italian market, instructing retailers to liquidate their stocks – only to rescind the order 10 days later.

In early 2022, the State-Regions Conference – a platform for dialogue and cooperation between the central and regional governments – updated language in a 2018 decree to classify hemp as strictly a medicinal plant. Four cannabis associations filed suit, and the decree was annulled one year later by the Regional Administrative Tribunal of Lazio, which ruled it went against European law.

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