The Italian Ministry of Health recently surprised the country’s hemp industry by lifting the suspension on a controversial decree originally issued in October 2020. This decree aimed to classify oral CBD extracts as narcotics.
Specifically, the decree stated that “compositions for oral administration of cannabidiol obtained from extracts of Cannabis” would be included in the table of medicinal drugs and categorized as a restricted narcotic.
The revocation of the suspension will take effect 30 days after publication in the Official Gazette, on September 21, 2023. After this date, the sale of cannabidiol in the form of oils and other extracts will only be allowed in pharmacies and under medical supervision.
What Does This Mean for CBD Oil in Italy?
If fully implemented, Italy could become the only country in Europe to consider oral CBD preparations as narcotics. The repeal will impact existing and future CBD products on the Italian market. CBD oils may disappear from general retail, unless prepared with synthetic CBD not covered by the provision. The future of cannabis light products high in CBD is also uncertain.
However, the European Court of Justice has ruled that CBD products in EU member states should not be considered narcotics and should be allowed to move freely.
Attorney Carlo Alberto Zaina told DolceVitaOnline the importance of a collective action that could contest the decree within 60 days of its publication in the official journal.
“When an entire sector sees its business freedom rights trampled, it is necessary to present a united front and take the necessary legal actions before the appropriate bodies, in order to safeguard the countless companies tied to the industry and all the jobs that ensue,” Zaina stated.
The lawyer, who has contested the Speranza decree of 2020 multiple times, stresses that behind wording meant to dissuade anyone from reading the decree’s content, nothing is hidden.
“It is certain,” Zaina continues, “that the only way to oppose this unacceptable drift is to lead a new uncompromising jurisdictional legal battle, to which all the affected activities can join, the very existence of which depends on it.”
What Comes Next?
The hemp industry will likely unite and pursue legal action to fight the classification. CBD companies and advocates argue the decree violates EU policy on free movement of goods.
Italy has a significant medical cannabis program, although access has been hampered by supply issues. Further restricting CBD access based on this decree could harm patients relying on it for relief.
While the Italian government maintains the classification is necessary to regulate unsafe products, the hemp industry believes it is overreach that will only empower the black market. They hope concerted legal action can block the decree before it takes effect later this month.
The decision has also drawn criticism from consumer advocates concerned that limiting CBD access contradicts public health goals. However, some health professionals argue CBD requires tighter control and oversight.
Italy’s changing stance reflects the general uncertainty around CBD regulation globally. The debate involves patient access, consumer safety, the cannabis industry, and drug policy. Although the World Health Organization has declared CBD is safe and non-addictive, many countries still struggle with appropriate oversight models.
For CBD companies in Italy, the next few weeks will prove critical. Failure to stop the decree’s enactment will force businesses to drastically alter their operations or pursue the unpredictable legal cannabis niche.