cannabis, grass, marijuana.jpg
Photograph: Photo by Xtip, used under CC0

The question of legalizing cannabis came before Italy's parliament for the first time in the country's history Monday, with backers saying that, even though defeat looms, it would not be the last time the matter came up for debate.

Legalizing cannabis is a controversial topic that has polarized opinions among experts, politicians and law enforcement officials, with some taking a tough-on-drugs approach, while others say fighting cannabis takes too much effort for victories that are too modest.

The draft law would make it legal to: possess up to 15 grams of cannabis; cultivate it in small quantities, either individually or in groups of up to 50 people; and smoke it in private. It would also allow its sale in government licensed shops.

"We consider it historic and very important that, for the first time, and after years of failed attempts, parliament is formally tackling this issue," Roberto Giachetti, one of the 222 members of the Chamber of Deputies sponsoring the bill, said in a statement.

The lower chamber has 630 members. Even if passed, it would still have to go the Senate, where more opposition looms.

Reform backers argue that the law would weaken drug-dealing mafias and terrorist groups and free up police and judicial resources. Critics say it would encourage cannabis consumption, with dangerous consequences for society.

Critical lawmakers are expected to present about 2,000 amendments to the law, in an effort to obstruct its progress. After Monday's initial debate, the first votes are not expected to take place before September.

"Those who want to liberalize cannabis have canvassed a lot of support," Enrico Costa, a centrist minister for family affairs who opposes the bill, said to Il Mattino newspaper.

"But it is clear that neither the country is ready nor are there [enough] votes in parliament for such a proposal to advance," he added.

Latest news

Bomb explodes outside police officer's home in Northern Ireland

A bomb exploded outside a police officer's home in Northern Ireland on Wednesday but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

Denmark to charge man with blasphemy over burning Koran

Danish prosecutors said Wednesday they have opened a rare blasphemy case against a man who videotaped himself burning a copy of the Koran.

South Africa to raise taxes for the wealthiest

South Africa will raise the income tax rate for the country's wealthiest to 45 per cent from 41 per cent, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announced Wednesday.

French centrist leader offers conditional support to Macron

The leader of France's centrist Democratic Movement party, Francois Bayrou, said Wednesday he was willing to support reformist former economy minister Emmanuel Macron in the country's upcoming presidential election.

Amnesty International warns of nationalist rhetoric and hate speech in Croatia

Croatia continues to have problems with discrimination against ethnic minorities and with freedom of the media, while heightened nationalist rhetoric and hate speech during election time contributed to growing ethnic intolerance and insecurity in the country, global human rights watchdog Amnesty International said in its annual report on the state of human rights in the world in 2016/2017.

Official assigned to Wilders' security team held by Dutch police

A security official assigned to protect Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders is being held by police on suspicion of passing along classified information about the lawmaker to a Dutch-Moroccan crime gang.

Italy's 'Red Thing' could make impact in election debut, polls show

Two polls conducted for RAI public broadcaster released Wednesday showed a new entity that split from Italy's ruling Democratic Party

Council: Nixing grants to "Novosti" would cause far-reaching implications

The Council for National Minorities, a state-level autonomous umbrella organisation for all ethnic minorities in Croatia, has stated that the cancellation of financial grants to the "Novosti", a newspaper of the ethnic Serb minority, would produce far-reaching implications and stir criticism for reduction of free speech and of freedom of expression of the most numerous ethnic minority.

Russia to build replica Reichstag for schoolchildren to storm

A military-themed park in a suburb of Moscow will soon install a replica of Berlin's Reichstag for Russian schoolchildren to storm, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Wednesday.

Alitalia strike set for Thursday, hundreds of flights cancelled

Employees of Italy's loss-making airline Alitalia will go on strike Thursday, air transport unions confirmed, after government talks with both sides failed to break the deadlock.

EU calls on Germany to reduce large current account surplus

The European Commission on Wednesday called on Germany, the bloc's biggest economy, to reduce its large current account surplus and focus on boosting domestic consumption.

Germans' demand for Croatian destinations on steady rise

Bookings for Croatia's destinations in some regions of Bavaria have been rising and some statistics show a 30% increase year-on-year, according to the preliminary information from the "" fair for leisure and travel, which opened in Munich on Wednesday and runs through Sunday.