Green Gold Rush: Italy’s Cannabis Lite
We all know that cannabis laws around the world vary considerably. In many states of the US, for example, both recreational and medicinal cannabis have been legalized. In other states, you can get medicinal but not recreational cannabis quite easily. If you’re a dealer, however, you will probably face the death penalty in countries as far flung as Egypt, Singapore and Saudi Arabia.
In Europe, sanctions have been loosened in recent years but in many countries, it still remains technically illegal to grow or deal cannabis.
In Italy, however, things are slightly different. If you haven’t heard of the Green Gold Rush, here’s our quick lowdown.
What is Italy’s Green Gold Rush?
The phenomenon which has grown up around Italy’s cannabis lite scene perfectly reflects the hypocrisy and stupidity that often comes with marijuana laws around the world.
Here’s the thing you might find difficult to understand:
In Italy, you can legally sell cannabis flowers in shops across the country. It’s most often referred to as cannabis lite because the amount of CBD and other compounds is thought to be negligible. In other words, the cannabis flowers are not classed as a drug according to the nation’s laws.
This hasn’t been lost on the entrepreneurial Italians who see it as an opportunity to sell a form of weed quite legally to the general public. There are plenty of different products such as Marley CBD and Cannabismile White Pablo you can find on the street. The law says that you can buy and sell this product but, and here’s the slight catch, you can’t eat or smoke it or ingest it in any way.
The trouble is no one quite knows or checks what you do with the flowers when you get them home.
Who is really going to know that you are taking cannabis from this legally bought source? The answer is nobody, which is why the industry has taken off and quite dramatically too.
The reason for the Green Gold Rush in Italy comes down to hemp production. The government wanted to help revive the hemp industry in the country some years back. Now, hemp is used for a wide variety of manufacturing processes around the world. It’s found in everything from textiles to construction material and even paper. The Italian government produced new legislation to make it easier for farmers to buy and sell hemp and it certainly gave the industry a big boost.
What wasn’t included, however, was legislation for the cannabis bud, including the flowers, and what was supposed to be done with that. The farmers are producing large amounts of flowers which aren’t used in the hemp production process. With the new legislation, it could be something which they could potentially, and legally, sell.
And we all know that farmers don’t like to waste anything.
Suddenly, Italy had a whole new industry where flowers were being sold in shops around the country. It’s called the Green Gold Rush because farmers and shopkeepers are raking it in and no one can stop them. There’s not much that the Government can do and since the new legislation came into effect, there’s little chance of turning things back.
The story has become so well-known that it’s even made its way into mainstream media outlets like the New York Times. Luca Marola is the Italian who is credited with starting the craze and since it started, he’s sold over 17,000 kg of petals and made a fair amount of money.
Legal Lite Cannabis
Is it any good? What do the Italian cannabis lovers get out of it? Shops have sprung up all over Italy because of this technical loophole. It’s being sold by not seedy back street joints, either. They’re plush, modern outlets that are often aimed at the young and affluent. There’s plenty of them in Rome, for instance, where shops have menus in the front windows.
Each pack of cannabis petals comes with the usual legal caveats – that the product is ‘non-narcotic’, is not to be swallowed and shouldn’t be smoked or ingested in any way. This is all in accordance with Italian Law n.242.
Okay, you’re not going to get the extra strength, high CBD and THC strains that you have in the US where cannabis is properly legalized but you could do a lot worse.
A Guide to Buying Weed in Italy
As the saying goes, when in Rome….
Here are just a few tips about buying cannabis petals in Italy’s capital (or for that matter anywhere in the country).
- There are legal stores which sell what is called collectable pot. This might sound twee but that’s how the Italians describe it. Maybe there’s a legal reason, we don’t know.
- The stores are pretty much everywhere if you’re in a city like Rome but you’ll be hard pressed to find one in more rural areas.
- Most of the shops are fairly minimalist but they’re friendly. You’ll often see a menu with different flowers and their descriptions and the level of THC on view. While most of the products are home-grown in Italy, there are some from Switzerland.
- This is largely a cash business, though some businesses do accept card payments. The average cost of a bag is going to be around €15 per gram though a lot depends on the quality and strength. You don’t need to show any ID, just turn up at the shop and buy. It’s legal after all.
- If you want the extras like papers, pipes or even bongs, you’ll be disappointed. Don’t forget, the law forbids smoking the petals (and presumably encouraging it) so shops mostly don’t sell any paraphernalia. Some do though, but you’ll have to hunt around for them.
- If you need papers to make a joint, simply head to the nearest tabbachi or tobacconists down the road. They’re pretty much everywhere.
- You can’t legally smoke weed in public in Italy but you can do pretty much whatever you want in your own home or flat and no one will bother you.
The Green Gold Rush and the Rest of the World
The Green Gold Rush is not a phrase that has just been used for Italy. It’s a growing phenomenon that has taken hold ever since different states in the US began to legalize weed. Entrepreneurs across the world haven’t ignored the potential of cannabis becoming legal. Just like the gold rush, we’re in unchartered territory here – everyone’s trying to get their cut and it’s a tremendously exciting time for the industry.
With so much money involved, there are increasingly more areas in the world where there is a rush to legalize cannabis. The US and Canada may be leading the way but other countries are also pushing for a relaxation of the laws. That includes areas like Thailand and Malaysia where drugs laws have often been draconian, to say the least.
There’s Money in Them Hills!
After all the posturing over the harmful effects of cannabis over the years, what it really comes down to is how much money people can make. Call us cynical (because we are), when people realize they can make cash, morals suddenly seem to go out of the window.
What does all this mean for small businesses, however, when big corporations and governments start to get on the bandwagon?
According to Medium, 35% of current CEOs for cannabis businesses are women. The industry in the US has provided 160,000 new jobs and there’s been a general improvement in production standards that means consumers are getting better choices.
On the downside, the Green Gold Rush is seeing homegrown suppliers and small cannabis farmers coming under pressure from bigger businesses and corporations who are trying to muscle in on the potential money-making opportunity. The problem here is that there’s the potential for the industry to get ugly. If you’ve been used to home growing cannabis or operate a small business that provides for the local community, you could face the prospect of being eaten up or squeezed out by big business in the future.
Cannabis is going mainstream, there’s no doubt about that. While we may still be in the early stages of the Green Gold Rush, we can’t escape the fact that companies are starting to grow up that are primarily concerned with cannabis production. No better example of this was when Tilray Inc became the first cannabis stock to go public in 2018. Expect more over the next few years, especially in US and Canada companies.
The good news is that you’ll still be able to buy seeds and grow your own crops if you want to. You just might see a few more shops opening up on the high street where you can buy different cannabis products.