Elections are a time of change, but not always the change we’re looking for. The Italian elections just went down, and the resulting right-wing win doesn’t look good for legal weed in the near future. This is a huge break from where the country was at the beginning of this year, when it was getting ready to let the people choose legality themselves. This was set to happen via an election-time ballot, which was approved, and then taken away by Italy’s highest court.
What does the recent Italian election mean for legal weed? Probably nothing good! We’re a fully-rounded independent news site reporting on topics in the cannabis and psychedelics spaces. Subscribe today for regular updates via the Cannadelics Weekly Newsletter, and for some sweet offerings on tons of cool products including vapes, smoking devices, edibles, cannabis paraphernalia, and the always popular cannabinoids like Delta 8 & HHC. Head to our ‘best of’ lists to get the low-down, and pick yourself up some brand new swag.
The Italian general election was held on September 25th, 2022, and the results of it don’t look good for left-wing moves like legal weed. This election comes at a time of political upheaval in the country, which led to former Prime Minister Mario Draghi stepping down, and President Sergio Mattarella dissolving the parliament in early July. The normal end to the parliamentary session wasn’t for eight more months, leading to the need for early elections.
These elections provided the lowest voter turnout Italy has seen, with 63.91% of the population making it to the polls (a nine point decrease from 2018). The Fratelli d’Italia party, headed by Giorgia Meloni, took the lead with 26% of the vote.
Fratelli d’Italia is considered a far-right party, and its expected that the new government that Meloni is likely tasked with forming as the likely new Prime Minster, will be the most right-oriented party since World War II. Fratelli d’Italia is a part a center-right alliance, formed with the far-right League party headed by Matteo Salvini, and the center-right Forza Italia party, led by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.
For its part, Fratelli d’Italia stayed out of the failing government this past summer, which is probably what helped it build support in light of recent controversies. As such, the party went from as little as 4% of the vote four years ago, to commanding about 44% as part of the alliance in 2022. In fact, it was Fratelli d’Italia that really brought the vote in, as alliance partners League and Forza actually fell in support. The party also benefited from disagreement among the ranks of opposing parties, leaving a non-unified front on the liberal side.
According to election results, the next biggest showing at the election went to the Democratic party, which collected a little over 19% of the vote, followed by Five Star Movement, which received 15.42%. The League, Forza, Third Pole, and Italian Left/Greens, took 4th-7th places with 8.78%, 8.12%, 7.78%, and 3.63% of the vote respectively. Its expected that the center-left will have 78 seats in the Chamber, and 40 in the Senate.
While its hard to know exactly how any new leader will actually lead, Fratelli d’Italia is a party associated with Benito Mussolini’s fascist government. In a speech earlier this year, Meloni explained her stance this way: “Yes to the natural family, no to the LGBT lobby, yes to sexual identity, no to gender ideology… no to Islamist violence, yes to secure borders, no to mass migration… no to big international finance… no to the bureaucrats of Brussels!”
Meloni has stirred up other issues, both in her alliance with parties that harbor Russian ties, and in often putting out a very anti-EU rhetoric. This has been brought down a couple notches since election time began, with Meloni at least outwardly showing more support. For anyone paying attention, however, this is questionable, as it goes against her usual stance.
What does the Italian election mean for legal weed?
The election just happened, and the government is far from being worked out. So far, nothing much has been said about cannabis in the press, as the post-election pieces fall into place. However, new likely PM Giorgia Meloni is not exactly a proponent of cannabis reform, making whatever government she forms, unlikely to push very hard in this direction.
Meloni, herself, is an outspoken critic of cannabis reform, and regularly goes up against any progressive measures put in place. She has argued that decriminalizing cannabis will increase the use of other drugs.
The rise of Meloni and Fratelli d’Italia show that perhaps not everyone in Italy is onboard with cannabis legalization. Past opinion polls have shown a strong connection between right-wing voters and a negative view on cannabis legalization. Plus, alliance partner the League is helmed by the very anti-mariujuana Salvini, who claimed drugs are death, and who wanted to wage war against cannabis light (smokable hemp), when he was deputy prime minister.
As in many places, the younger generation is where more support for reform is found. In a recent petition meant to get a ballot measure in front of the population at this very election, almost half of the signatures came from those under 30, signaling very strong support. This indicates that at a certain point, regardless of leadership, these reforms will likely happen; but, as much of the population is older, and of a different mindset, it probably won’t right now.
Wasn’t the Italian election supposed to have a ballot measure for legal weed?
Yes, the Italian election was supposed to include a ballot measure allowing residents to vote on whether they want legal weed, or not. The ballot also covered the cultivation of entheogenic plants like magic mushrooms, and was therefore rather wide-reaching. It did, however, collect enough signatures to make it onto the ballot. 630,000 signatures were collected in the end, and handed over to the Supreme Court of Cassation for verification.
That court indeed verified the signatures, but in order to include a ballot measure, it must get a pass from the Supreme Court of Cassation, as well as the Constitutional Court, which is tasked with making sure a ballot measure is in line with the country’s laws. A referendum cannot conflict with the constitution, and this particular one was written in a way that was expected to satisfy legal requirements.
The 15-judge panel that makes up the Constitutional Court in Italy did not agree that the ballot measure was legal as per Italian law. The court rejected it even though it had technically collected more than enough signatures for inclusion. The referendum committee had this to say about it: “This is not a defeat of us and of the hundreds of thousands of citizens and citizens who signed up for legal cannabis. Today’s first and foremost is a defeat for the Institutions that are no longer able to comprehend a major part of this country.”
Looking at it now, it’s not shocking that there was issue with the measure, and perhaps its writers should have attempted a more narrow approach. Court president Giuliano Amato stated the multi-drug issue was a problem that would “violate multiple international obligations which are an indisputable limitation of the Constitution.”
He said this “leads us to ascertain the unsuitability of the aim pursued. The referendum was not on cannabis, but on drugs. Reference was made to substances that include poppy, coca—the so-called hard drugs.”
Beyond the wide range of drugs, the referendum came with a couple other strange issues. One being that it didn’t do anything to remove the fine currently in place for the decriminalization policy. Even if the referendum had gone through, the fine would have remained, making it seem like not a real legalization anyway. It also came with the caveat that no processing could be used, meaning regular weed or mushrooms would be legal, but something like hash, not.
With the Italian election resulting in a right-wing win, the future of legal weed in Italy is more unsure than ever. As are reforms to fix supply issues on the medical front, or anything else in the vein of loosening restrictions for cannabis, or drugs in general. The country has already suffered from contradictory laws and mandates in the past, and it seems the future is not any more clear.