The Bill was approved with 317 votes against 40, with 13 abstentions. However to come into effect, it remains to be approved by the Senate.
Cannabis-based medication has already been available on prescription in Italy since 2013, when the Ministry of Health passed the first decrees to allow production and access to the medicine.
So why bother to vote in a new law? Because so far the regulations are very different from one province to another, and the Bill aims to establish a uniform framework regarding patient access, scientific research and production development support.
The Bill allows doctors to prescribe medication, derived from cannabis, to patients who need help with the reducing pain associated with various illnesses, such as multiple sclerosis (MS). Prescriptions can be offered for a period of up to three months and can be renewed. Medical cannabis prescribed in this way will be reimbursed by the National Health Services of Italy.
The cultivation, transformation and distribution of cannabis-based medicine has been entrusted to the Military Pharmaceutical Plant in Florence. If the offer doesn’t manage to fit the demand, the producer has been allowed “to import and cultivate with other entities” according to La Repubblica.
Even though the bill found great support in the House of Parliament, many are disappointed with the outcome, claiming that the law should have gone further in the legalisation process. The initial draft legislation introduced in Parliament last year included measures to allow Italians to grow 5 cannabis plants and possess up to 15 grams of dried cannabis per household for recreational use. The Minister of Health Beatrice Lorenzin, along with other right-winged Members of Parliament, opposed the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use and forced to withdraw these measures from the bill draft.
Riccardo Magi, National Secretary of the Radicals, declared this was an “historic opportunity failing to implement a reform, that would have lifted justice and prisons from the damage of prohibition”.
If the Italian Senate confirms the vote of the Chamber of Deputies, then Italy will become one of the few European countries that dare taking a step forward in their cannabis policy. On the other side of the Atlantic, American States, Uruguay and now Canada are now fast moving towards legalising for recreational and/or medical use. On the other side of the world, New Zealand have just announced it is going to have a referendum on cannabis legalisation for recreational use by 2020.
New Zealand to have referendum on cannabis legalisation by 2020! https://t.co/DcoQdzS5HA
— Henry Fisher (@_Hydrofluoric) October 20, 2017
It is urgent that European policymakers take action for the creation of a unified regulatory framework on medical cannabis, to be able to develop our own standards and regulations and open the way for a wider reform. Countries like Germany and Spain are leading the way and giving us the opportunity to keep our position as a continent of social and scientific progress, while others like the United Kingdom are building momentum around medical cannabis. The train of global reform has already turned on its engines, but there’s still time to catch it.
Pierre-Yves Galléty is a staff writer and communications officer at Volteface. Tweets @PYGallety