Whenever we talk about cannabis there is always the risk of ending up dividing, even very sharply and radically, between those in favor and those against its liberalization. Much better, then to start from the facts, indeed from a fundamental fact: in Italy the sale of legal weed has been legal since 2016, and this by virtue of a law (number 242) fully in force.


What is the basic provision of this law? How does it apply? Where does it hide the risk of waste, including for people’s health? The 2016 regulations set a decisive bar for the sale of legal weed in Italy. The limit is this: the sale is allowed for cannabis that has THC (the active ingredients that generate psychotropic effects) between 0.2 percent and 0.5 percent.


When we talk about psychotropic effects we refer, and here we quote verbatim from the Treccani Encyclopedia, to “substances that affect psychic functions.” With what effects? The answer comes from the levels of cannabidiol (or also referred to as Cbd) contained in marijuana, which, let’s remember, is a hemp derivative. And Cbd does not induce a “high,” but if anything has a natural anxiolytic effect. It relaxes. And it replaces other types of drugs, which are very popular and very much on the pill market, which are used precisely to control anxiety. With this in mind and with the backing of a law, a legal weed industry has sprung up in Italy, with about 1,500 businesses in the field, starting with retail outlets, and online outlets.

To date, the law allows for the cultivation of Sativa hemp seeds intended for textile fiber production or industrial uses, but these must be certified and traceable. In the food area, it clarifies what foods can be made from Hemp, highlighting the importance of THC levels. Which must be between 0.2 percent and 0.5 percent for marijuana to be considered legal or light. As for sellers, the law states that “the trader may not be punishable under Article 73 Presidential Decree 309/1990 where he or she documentally proves the lawful origin of the inflorescences from lawful cultivation, by virtue of the value of the presumption of legality of the documentation (fiscal and transportation) accompanying a lawful product.” And consumers in turn cannot be punished if they purchase and use traceable products with THC levels no higher than those considered legal.


The cannabis plant contains many cannabinoids, the main ones being precisely THC and CBD. While the former, also called tetrahydrocannabinol, is responsible for the psychoactive effect of cannabis, CBD does not cause any high but has important pharmacological effects. Extracted mostly from flowers and leaves, CBD brings many benefits to our bodies, both physically and mentally. And it is legal unlike THC. In fact, Italian legislation differentiates between the two active ingredients.

Here are some of the properties attributed to CBD:

  • Anxiolytic properties;
  • Analgesic properties;
  • Antipsychotic properties;
  • Relaxing properties;
  • Antioxidant properties;
  • Neuroprotective properties.


In order not to incur a criminal offense, a maximum of 500 mg of active ingredient can be possessed in Italy in the case of cannabis, marijuana, hashish. However, drug possession is an administrative offense even when it may not be considered a crime. However, if it is traceable legal weed with THC concentration limit in the normal range, the user cannot be punished. The law in this regard states:

A consumer found in possession of cannabis light may not be punishable under Article 75 since this is the position of a person who freely enjoys a lawful good, the 0.5 percent THC limit being the threshold below which cannabis has no legally relevant psychotropic effects under Presidential Decree 309/1990.


Another matter concerns the sale of cannabis for therapeutic use. This type, in fact, has been legal in Italy since 2006. Moreover, since 2016, thanks to the collaboration between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Defense, the product is made in the military pharmaceutical chemical plant in Florence. Containing THC 5% – 8% and Cbd 7.5% – 12%, it is sold in pharmacies upon presentation of a prescription. As of 2018, Cannabis FM-1 (THC 13.0-20.0% and Cbd <1%) is also available. This type of cannabis is prescribed for the treatment of chronic pain and pain associated with conditions such as multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, side effects caused by chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and HIV therapies. But also for the reduction of involuntary body and facial movements in Tourette’s syndrome, and as an appetite stimulant in patients with eating disorders or AIDS.


Cultivation for exclusively personal use is a crime if the plant possesses THC. But possession of hemp seeds or plants without the active ingredient is not a crime. In addition, one can cultivate hemp sativa, which falls under the list of Article 17 of EC Directive No. 53 of 2002.  The percentage of the active ingredient of THC in the inflorescences must be minimal, that is, between 0.2% and 0.5% (with tolerance up to 0.6%).


Returning to cannabis that is not intended for therapeutic use, once it has been clarified what it is and how it works in Italy, it must be added that, as usual, we are adept at navigating in the quicksand of uncertainties, of discourses that mix scientific insights with pure propaganda, of judiciary rulings that, in bursts, come and go in opposite directions. Three essential things would be needed to avoid all this, and the various wastefulness that goes with it. First: a law that is clearer where it is too ambiguous. Second: a policy that is responsible on such sensitive and sensitive issues for the daily lives of citizens, and does not engage in propaganda one way or the other. Rather use the goal of always having the general interests of the people at heart and the principle, fundamental to good politics, of “knowing in order to deliberate.” Third: a judiciary that, without encroaching on the field, prosecutes with the utmost severity anyone who, without looking anyone in the face, does not abide by the law in this matter and attempts to speculate on people’s health. Which, unfortunately, is not uncommon in Italy.