Lawmakers in Italy have taken a bold stance on marijuana legalization, signing a motion Monday to legalize cannabis across the country, according to the ANSA news agency. The proposal, introduced by Sen. Benedetto Della Vedova, was backed by 60 politicians, mostly from the ruling center-left Democratic Party but with some support from the right. Della Vedova himself, a senator who also serves as the deputy foreign minister, was a longtime member of Italy's small but influential Radical Party, which has campaigned since the 1970s to liberalize marijuana laws.
“It is a bipartisan proposition from members of the parliament of different political backgrounds,” Della Vedova told reporters. “This shows that even in Italy, a pragmatic approach, based on a rigorous cost-benefit analysis, is now increasingly popular in the political and cultural debate, not only outside but also inside the parliament.” The proposal hasn't been turned into a bill yet, but Della Vedova promised it will be soon.
Marijuana is already decriminalized in Italy, but remains illegal for either medical or personal use. Possession of small amounts of pot is considered a misdemeanor. Offenders typically face fines or have their drivers’ licenses and passports temporarily suspended, but those caught growing the plant can face jail time.
Some European countries have made moves toward marijuana legalization in recent years, although even the most lax laws are considered by many pot advocates to be too restrictive. In 2013, the Czech Republic passed a law legalizing medical marijuana use, but many patients have had a hard time obtaining legal weed. That same year, France passed legislation allowing some cannabis-derived drugs to be sold. Spain recently decriminalized possession, giving rise to a network of underground, private cannabis clubs that operate in a kind of legal limbo. The Netherlands is the only place in Europe with retail marijuana sales.
In February 2014, Italy’s top court overturned a law passed in 2006 under former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi that put cannabis in the same category as cocaine and heroin. The move came after human rights groups protested the country’s swelling imprisonment rate.
A month earlier, the northwestern city of Turin became the first major city to vote in favor of legalizing medical marijuana. The decision didn’t make cannabis legal to buy or sell, but made obtaining the drug easier for some patients.