Interview. We spoke with the 5 Star Movement’s Filippo Gallinella, president of the chamber’s Agriculture Commission, about a recent decree by the Conference of Regions and Autonomous Provinces. ‘I have proposed several additional solutions… My amendments have not received the approval of the parliamentary majority.’

Changes to Italy’s ‘cannabis light’ rules won’t help or hurt the legalization push

On January 12, the Conference of Regions and Autonomous Provinces adopted an inter-ministerial decree on medicinal plants. The decision has raised mixed reactions. Patients and a (good) part of the companies complained about the lack of clarity of the text, fearing a return to the past and serious problems for producers and retailers of the so-called “cannabis light,” or inflorescences with a low THC content. However, the President of the Agriculture Commission in the Chamber of Deputies Filippo Gallinella, of the 5 Star Movement, is among those who believe nothing will change for cannabis light.

“First of all, allow me to clarify,” he replied, “that the term ‘cannabis light’ is a commercial invention that has only created confusion. Law 242/2016 regulates the cultivation by farmers of Cannabis Sativa L. where ‘L’ stands for Linnaeus, the name of the person who classified the botanical genus. It contains ‘provisions for the promotion of the cultivation and agro-industrial chain of hemp,’ specifies in detail what the farmer must do and indicates which varieties are allowed for cultivation, clarifying that these crops do not fall within the scope of application of the Consolidated Law on narcotics 309/1990. Therefore, a ministerial decree, a norm of lower rank than a law, cannot do anything other than recall the rules in force.”

Yet, the decree refers simply to leaves and inflorescences in the Presidential Decree 309/90, even if they respect the THC limits of law 242/16. So in your opinion, once cut, the plant is regulated by different laws depending on its parts?

The 2016 law, by law and not in my opinion, allows the farmer, only the farmer, to grow specific varieties for the purposes listed in Article 2 of the same: food and cosmetics; semi-finished products, such as fiber, sheaves, powders, wood chips, oils or fuels, for supplies to industries and craft activities in various sectors, including energy; material intended for the practice of green manure; organic material intended for bioengineering works or useful products for green building; constructed wetlands for the remediation of polluted sites; teaching and research activities by public or private institutes; and crops intended for horticulture. If you are not a farmer, to grow hemp, regardless of the botanical species, you refer to another rule, namely Presidential Decree 309/90, in accordance with the provisions of art. 17 because in the tables that are referenced there is hemp.

But Article 26 of Presidential Decree 309/90 expressly excludes the hemp plant — not just stem, roots and seeds — from its provisions for the production of fibers and other industrial uses permitted by European Union legislation.

That article excludes hemp for industrial use from the cultivation ban. The 242/2016, which, I recall, simplifies the rules only for farmers, incorporates the previous rule and broadens and specifies its scope. There is, therefore, no opposition.

There is also the ruling of the European Court of Justice in the Kanavape case of 2020, which states that the marketing of goods containing CBD produced legally in an EU member state cannot be prohibited within the common market.

The ruling speaks of marketing and not of production, which are two different aspects. The ministerial decree makes a mere list of medicinal plants, recalling that for the extraction of active ingredients from hemp sativa, as a medicinal plant, the authorization procedure provided for by Presidential Decree 309/90 must be followed. On this occasion I would like to remind you that, to date, natural CBD has been registered with the EMA as a drug and can be found on the market in Sativex and Epidiolex. At EFSA, the European Food Safety Authority, there are five dossiers regarding CBD as a food.

The M5S has traditionally been in favor of the legalization of cannabis. For you, would it not have been better if in the decree, after “leaves and inflorescences,” it had been specified “above the limits provided for by 242/16 and the relevant European legislation,” in order to avoid doubts that do not benefit any of the parties involved in the cannabis supply chain?

With a ministerial decree it is not possible to modify a law, regardless of one’s wishes. Today a farmer can grow hemp sativa with the previously listed purposes. If you want to do something else, you must follow the relative existing rules, such as the presidential decree or the Novel Food Regulation. In conclusion, I have proposed several additional solutions, such as being able to sell it as a “collector’s product” or sell it as an “inhalation product.” To date, however, my amendments have not received the approval of the parliamentary majority and have not become the norm.

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