Italians look set to vote on cannabis liberalisation early next year in a referendum triggered by an online petition that received 500,000 signatures in a week.

Campaigners aim to legalise growing for personal use and to ease sanctions on cannabis-related crimes including an end to prison sentences for selling small amounts.

Organisers were able to gather the required 500,000 signatures so quickly due to a law approved in July that allows signatures to be collected digitally.

The campaign group wrote on its official Facebook page: “In less than a week we’ve gathered more than half-a-million signatures for #ReferendumCannabis, a stunning outcome that was possible thanks to the efforts of thousands of activists.

“But to send a clear message to the politicians that are already undermining the importance of this result, we want to undermine the parliament with a green tide!”

The group will continue gathering signatures — which have to be officially verified — before the September 30 deadline to submit the referendum proposal. 

Currently medicinal cannabis is permitted in Italy, while recreational use is not criminalised. However, it is illegal to buy, cultivate and sell cannabis and if convicted, dealers can face a 10-year prison sentence. 

Mario Draghi’s national unity government is divided over the issue.

Hannah Adler

Hannah is a communications professional and early-career researcher in the disciplines of health communication and health sociology. She is a PhD student at Griffith University currently writing a...