Italy has taken a step closer to decriminalizing cannabis after the Senate approved a bill that would allow people to grow up to six cannabis plants and possess up to 15 grams of marijuana. The bill will now be sent back to the lower house of Parliament for final approval.

In Italy, marijuana legalization is gaining popularity. Several pro-cannabis groups and political parties in the nation started a ballot campaign last week that garnered the necessary 500,000 signatures to proceed along the path to cannabis decriminalization.

To qualify for a popular referendum, the campaign needs to collect at least 500,000 signatures by Sept. 30. The referendum would ask Italian people to vote “Yes” or “No” on decriminalizing cannabis growing for personal use. The Supreme Court of Cassation must first verify the signatures, then the Legitimate Court must determine if the referendum question is constitutional.

According to CNN, the proposed legislative change would legalize the purchase, sale, and production of cannabis. Medical cannabis usage is legal, and recreational cannabis use was decriminalized in Italy in 1993, however those who purchase, sell, or bulk grow cannabis risk up to ten years in jail.

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According to pro-legalization organizations, this change would “put a stop to needless trials for tiny quantities of the medication and guarantee that patients who use it to alleviate severe pain will never have to face a court again.” They also used the prospect of tens of thousands of new employment and greater tax income as justifications for altering the legislation. According to Forbes, illegal cannabis sales bring in 6.3 billion Euros each year to organized criminal networks.

Before filing the referendum proposal, campaign organizers are still collecting signatures. If the plan passes all legal hurdles, cannabis will be more available to Italy’s estimated 6 million recreational users than it has ever been. In comparison to other European Union members, the nation continues to take a more permissive approach to cannabis.

In Italy, the hashtag #referendumcannabis has recently been popular. “So with a grin, we will continue to share, explain, go to the streets, and debate because we know perfectly well what we want—legal cannabis and an Italy free of the mafia!” said a post from the Facebook group spearheading the effort.

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Gary Miller is an actor, writer, director, comedian, and businessman. Gary, a Veriheal Media Curator, was born and raised in Denver, Colorado.

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