CBD in Italy


Italian CBD regulations are ambiguous, inconsistent and confusing for producers, distributors, and consumers, thus the country is not considered to have a formal CBD market today. Although a court decision was published to explain the low-THC products' legality, with the aim of revamping the industry and giving a competitive edge to Italian producers, it ended up not providing the clarity and specifics the market desperately needed, thus the market remains gray. Product remains available both online and through brick-and-mortar retailers in the country. In order for the market to grow and thrive, however, Italian legislators need to clarify the regulatory framework, both to ease consumer concerns and open a sustainable formal market for local and international players in the future.

Beyond regulatory confusion affecting the CBD market, COVID-19 has also impacted Italy in a devastating way, and the short-term and long-term consequences of the employment and economic losses will also play a role in its future. A decrease in consumer volume and spending will be inevitable as budgets tighten, and the possibility of supply chain-related issues will loom until at least the end of 2020. Further economic consequences might play an important role in future years as well, as the country slowly recovers from its extended lockdown and resulting financial woes.

Regulatory Analysis

Italian CBD regulations remain ambiguous, even following a recent court decision which meant to clarify but left room for loopholes while confusing growers, sellers and consumers. High CBD cannabis strains - commonly called 'Cannabis Light' - have been available in Italy for some time, with the country generally permitting for the cultivation of hemp and production and sale of CBD, so long as the product had less than 0.6% THC content throughout production.

But due to the country’s history with drug abuse, the government has sought to better regulate the use of cannabis, with the Supreme Court broadly outlawing cannabis derivatives - except for those without "narcotic effects" - as the result of pressure from the Interior Minister. The May 30, 2019 court ruling by Italy’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, was based on a case regarding defendants selling cannabis flower and other extracts labeled “collectors items” or “not for consumption”, which the defendants claimed had extremely low THC content and thus did not fall under the narcotics law. The court's verdict meant that - depending on local enforcement approaches - the sale of 'Cannabis Light' could lawfully be prosecuted, and stores could be shut down.

However, there is currently no clarification on the "narcotic effects" component of the ruling, with products that fall within 0.2% to 0.6% THC levels generally interpreted to fall into illegal territory, but the government seeming to accept CBD use so long as THC content is below 0.2%. It is not yet known how this law will be interpreted in time nor how local law enforcement will approach potential violations on a case-by-case basis following the ruling (particularly because product is indistinguishable in the absence of lab test results). Thus the result of the ruling has thus been continued ambiguity and confusion in the market.

Despite this, people are still cultivating, buying and selling CBD products in Italy. They can be found both online and through stores and pharmacies, and product can generally be purchased without a doctor’s prescription as long as it contains below 0.2% THC.

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