In a landmark decision likely to spill across (at least) Europe, Italy’s highest court rules that cannabis home grow is not a crime.
A landmark decision at the highest Italian court (the Supreme Court of Cassation), may well set the tone for legal decisions about cannabis home-grow in countries across Europe – if not other places as well – starting with Germany – where public support has tipped in favour of reform and the majority of elected representatives appear to reflect this. The decision, published on February 24, found that cannabis grown for personal consumption does not represent a narcotics possession “crime.”
However this is not the first time the Italian court has ruled this way. Their first decision on the matter, in December 2019, came to the same conclusion. So while it is clear that this ruling, by itself, is unlikely to sway European decision-makers, it certainly comes at an opportune moment. Germany, for example, is right in the middle of crafting cannabis legalization legislation.
The current conventional wisdom about home grow aus Deutschland is to limit the number of plants individuals are allowed to possess (to three). The Italian decision, by contrast, did not look at the number of plants involved but rather the fact that the cultivation method employed by the defendant was unlikely to produce a yield large enough to sell for profit. As a result, it is likely, just like the KanaVape case, to become a powerful European precedent, particularly given evolving case law right across the border in Deutschland, where patients are still facing criminal charges when taking matters into their own hands.
The Status of Cannabis Home grow in Europe
The entire discussion about home grow has so far been fraught with issues just about everywhere. In Canada, for example, it was patient collectives that morphed into the first commercial cultivation entities that later went public on the Toronto stock exchange as commercial and “public” cannabis firms.
At this point, that model has largely failed as the largest public Canadian firms have gone into a slump unlikely to be revived merely by legalization in Germany (or any other European country). The grey and black market also remains the largest competitor to a fully commercialized industry.
However, the idea of patient collectives and social clubs, absolutely on the agenda if one believes the rumours out of Berlin about the status of the legalization legislation in process, is a different matter.
While the “industry” per se remains largely opposed to such developments (and for obvious reasons), such developments are likely to have a huge impact on the ability of patients (for starters) to access the drug when their insurance company fails to approve their medicine.
The key issue here is “commercial cultivation” vs obviously small amounts of plants grown in backyards and indoor tents. How that is determined, legally, is another question.
However for now, it appears that the Italian Supreme court has just decriminalized home grow for the second time.
Deja Vu All Over Again – Has This Happened Before?
The closest analogy to be made here globally is Mexico. And despite this, the legislature is still delaying any final decision about passing legislation that has been passed by both legislative chambers, but remains in limbo because of the differences in the two versions of the law.
The same kinds of delay and obfuscation are also likely to show up in countries across Europe (see Spain as a prime example). However, that is not going to happen everywhere. Malta and Luxembourg have already passed home grow legislation. Germany, currently will have to draft legislation that is approved by the EU before proceeding towards finalization – but the Bundesrat – the German version of the US Senate is unlikely to veto a bill passed by the Bundestag (the house of representatives). The Czech Republic has vowed to follow Deutschland. Even some French senators have called for federal legalization – although that discussion, with enough support to pass a bill, is years away.
Regardless, no matter the fact that this decision will not immediately change laws in Italy or anywhere else, it is a clear sign that multiple countries in Europe are literally on the precipice of cannabis legalization – and the question is not if but when.