ENCOD BULLETIN ON DRUG POLICIES IN EUROPE
ITALY FINDS THE WAY OUT OF THE CANNABIS IMBROGLIO
“Who will change the world? The ones that don’t like it!”
Kuhle Wampe, Berlin 1932
The situation of cannabis consumers in Italy is often depicted as grim and not favourable to the institution of Cannabis Social Clubs. However, just recently there have been some events that indicate that something might be changing. Not only the interest in the concept of Cannabis Social Clubs is growing among the alternative scenes and in some media. Also some signals are coming from the legal apparatus, such as the recent verdicts of three tribunals asking the Constitutional Court to rule on the legitimacy of the drug laws passed seven years ago. These laws were justified as an act of necessity and urgency within an omnibus decree to finance the Torino Olympic games in 2006. It has now been recognised that they were formulated and passed under circumstances that subverted the will of the Italian people, who had expressed in a referendum in 1993 that drug use should be completely decriminalised.
Quite nervous about these developments that challenge his main activities is the former Italian drug czar Carlo Giovanardi, co-author of these infamous drug laws. With an unpredictable statement in an interview to the press agency Dire on July 16th, Giovanardi made a concession to the possibility of growing one single cannabis plant at home: “On the little plant that is not grown in the sense of a plantation, that is the plant that one keeps on the balcony, I absolutely agree, it is possible to discuss decriminalisation.
But don’t touch my laws on penalties for those that deal drugs.”
At the same time Giovanardi warned the Chamber of Deputies not to “touch” his law regarding the distinction in penalties concerning soft and hard drugs. “On the other point I would invite the Chamber of Deputies to call upon the toxicologists that will explain that the active principles contained in the cannabis plant and its derivatives today are totally different from those of 30 years ago and that they have devastating toxic effects on those consuming them.” “Therefore“, continued Giovanardi, “the idea of giving different penalties to those dealing with cocaine, heroin or ecstasy than to those dealing with cannabis is completely out of reality precisely because of the devastating effects due to the use of cannabis. It is enough to ask the relatives of the victims of street accidents provoked by those that have overridden and killed under the influence of cannabis“.
This declaration is a response to the law proposal of Daniele Farina, member of the left wing opposition in the Italian parliament and historical promoter of traditional hemp planting and harvest parties at the social centre Leoncavallo in Milan. When introducing the draft at the Commission of Justice Farina announced that, “in the course of 2011 almost 2 billions of euro were spent on drug repression with 48,2 per cent invested in the jail system, 18,7 per cent in the police activities and 32,6 per cent on tribunals and prefectures. Whereas the profits of the illegal trade amounted to just under 60 billions euro“. In the meanwhile the prisons are exploding. More than one third of the inmates – according to Farina – is convicted because of the drug laws. In 2011 they were 41,5 per cent, 27.947 on 67.394 inmates.
The law proposal tries to invert the current tendency with two very simple initiatives by introducing de-criminalization of cannabis home cultivation ‘for personal use or given to thirds for immediate consumption, excluding minors’ and last but not least reintroducing different penalties according to substances.
It is difficult at this moment to tell if the effort of the left wing opposition will be successful due to the actual big coalition running the country. Initially the law proposal was co-signed by some members of the Democrat Party and also other important parliamentary fractions are not openly opposing the project.
An important point is that in the course of 2013 three high courts and last but not least the powerful Court of Cassation have declared Giovanardi’s law unconstitutional for having been approved under highly questionable circumstances. They consider it as an illegitimate act of necessity and urgency – as a matter of fact an illegitimate procedure – and also because it abolished any difference between cannabis and other drugs.
According to many observers the way the radical change on drug policies passed in 2006 constitutes an imbroglio, a veritable swindle. Members of the Parliament were forced to vote on a simple budget measure, and within this measure, a radical swift in the drug policies had been introduced that passed with almost no discussion.
The ruling of the Court of Cassation is now used by some people prosecuted for cannabis in the tribunals since the law must be re-examined and so the passed proceedings might possibly be declared invalid.
According to Mr . Saraceni, senior lawyer and former Member of Parliament, in order to bypass the 1993 popular referendum that decriminalised drug consumption, the right wing parties first proposed to introduce a small corrective on another law in order to enable recidivist drug dependent prisoners to enter treatment. Then, like in a hocus pocus formula more suitable for circus than a parliamentary assembly in a Western country, they slipped 23 articles within the same decree that finally passed almost unnoticed.
The Italian swindle is clearly a part of the general swindle known as the war on drugs. It reminds of other cases of reclassification of cannabis as it passed in Great Britain against the will of most toxicologists, or the recent endeavour to criminalise drug use in Brazil. But quite probably the Italian way has been most obscene.
The case of necessity and urgency that was invoked to pass the most terrifying drug laws of Western Europe has contributed to overcrowd our prison system with cannabis consumers and growers.
To find a way out of this imbroglio a mass mobilization is needed to bring the swindle to an end along with a stronger defense of the persecuted cannabis friends popping up in the courts. But also by a more open engagement by the ones that do not like oppression and that could possibly act for change, unifying both the anti-prohibitionist activists and the victims of this entanglement.
By Enrico Fletzer
NEWS FROM THE SECRETARIAT
In the coming month, we will participate at the Hanfparade in Berlin on 10 August
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