The legalization of Cannabis is an issue on which there are different opinions and positions. Although several countries have joined the decriminalization of cannabis, there are still many challenges to be met and legal loopholes to be faced.
Such is the case of Italy and Spain, which, although it may be thought that having decriminalized certain aspects would benefit its consumers, the reality is different.
What is the legal landscape of cannabis in Italy and Spain?
In the case of Italy, the Italian government legalized the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. However, until 2017 patients could only use Bedrocan, a product that is imported from the Netherlands at a high cost. It is worth noting that in Italy it is not illegal to use cannabis, but self-cultivating and selling it is.
On the other hand, in the case of Spain, consumption is legal in private spaces or cannabis clubs but not in public spaces. Likewise, cultivation is legal but only if it cannot be seen publicly, that is to say, if you have a cannabis crop in your house it is better not to let your neighbor see it because you run the risk of being denounced by him. As for possession, it is legal if it is in private spaces and finally the purchase is illegal, but if you are part of an association of patients who make medicinal use of cannabis, it supplies you monthly.
In both countries there are many cases of people who make medicinal use of cannabis, who have been confronted with legal proceedings to guarantee their right to health. In the following lines we will talk about two of these cases.
The case of Walter De Benedetto in Italy has caused a lot of commotion in social networks. The 49-year-old man, diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis since the age of 16, has undergone numerous treatments that caused him side effects. That is why he chose to treat himself with medical cannabis formulated by his doctor. Walter claims that with this plant he found a balance and relief that helped him deal with his disease.
Up to this point in the story, everything seems fine, but the reality that Walter has had to face is different, because the Public Health System of Italy (ASL), could not supply the doses of cannabis prescribed by his doctor, and it is at this moment when he began his journey. Walter, seeing that his right to health was being violated, decided to grow the plant, after having studied the genetics best suited to his pathology.
In 2019, some hemp plants, dried inflorescences and plant maintenance material were found near Walter’s house, this caused him to be investigated for the crime of article 73 of the Consolidated Law of Narcotics for the purpose of trafficking. This has generated a lot of controversy, since Walter has shown that these plantations were for his own consumption and part of the treatment. However, the Italian authorities are continuing with the investigation and if found guilty, he could be imprisoned.
On the other hand, in Spain, there is also the case of Juan Manuel Rodriguez, a 49-year-old Galician man, quadriplegic since he was 19, who claims that only cannabis can eradicate from his body the strong and chronic pain he suffers. However, despite the fact that in Spain consumption and cultivation is decriminalized with certain restrictions, he himself cannot grow it since he lives in a public home for the disabled and this leads him to resort to the black market. Rodriguez assures: “I can spend up to 400 euros a month, more than half of my pension, and the “marijuana” they sell me is sometimes good and sometimes bad” and he also comments: “With the pandemic, to make matters worse, there is less quantity and the prices have gone up: this year I have spent seasons enduring the pain of not being able to get it”.
Faced with this situation, Rodriguez opted in 2012 to grow a small plantation in his room (in his closet) but he did not even get half of his second harvest, since the center’s management denounced him and he ended up testifying before a judge. The procedure was filed because it was a crop for self-consumption, however, in 2018 several agents of the Secret Police entered his room and took away all the cannabis he kept and he was fined. Rodriguez assures that, “Police harassment is tremendous. On the street I’m afraid of being stopped because I usually carry a joint or two with me. And meanwhile, neither the government nor any pharmaceutical company will give me a solution to my pains”.
Both Juan and Walter have stood up to these situations and have led movements and petitions to their governments so that they finally issue clear laws that allow them access to a better quality of life.
In conclusion, it can be seen that these laws tend to be ambiguous and restrictive, which forces these people to turn to other options such as the black market or to file petitions (such as Juan’s or Walter’s). Although there are many people who support the legalization of cannabis and promote clearer and more realistic bills, there is still a long way to go if we talk about the legalization of cannabis for medical use in Italy and Spain. However, the hope that everything will work out for the benefit of those who use cannabis is still alive and well.