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Italy’s Gray-Market Cannabis Is As Popular As It Is Perplexing

Cannabis is legal in Italy - sort of. In 2016 the Italian government implemented new hemp regulations in hopes of boosting a once thriving industry. But the new regulations didn't account for cannabis flower (a.k.a. buds), so a new industry began to arise around it.

The flower is now marketed as 'cannabis light', a substance that has a tiny fraction of the THC contained in conventional cannabis products. And while smoking or eating it is strictly forbidden, the sale of flower continues to operate in a legal gray area.

"We created an awesome phenomenon," Luca Marola told The New York Times. He is often cited as initiating the the 'cannabis light' trend via his company Easyjoint Project. He says that using cannabis light is more akin to microdosing than getting stoned. Marola claims this works well for people trying to combat insomnia and panic attacks, but not more serious conditions that medical marijuana would typically be prescribed for.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Italy since 2006 and has been regularly recommended for use by soldiers. It has become so popular in recent years that shortages have occurred and the country has had to begin importing cannabis from the Netherlands and Canada.

Cannabis advocates in Italy hope that the 'cannabis light' boom will help usher in full marijuana legalization in the coming years.

"Legalization there has created jobs, reduced criminality and the contraband of poor-quality marijuana, and it’s a big tax boon for governments," says Paolo Molinari who recently converted his café into an Amsterdam-style coffee shop. The venue has been very popular with tourists though smoking is prohibited, which perplexes Molinari. "Why remove a substance that creates income for the state?"

Especially, he says, since 'people will use it anyway.'


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