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Italy will be first to light up Europe’s weed biz

Italy will be first to light up Europe’s weed biz

9/22/2021 1:45:00 PM

Italy will be first to light up Europ e’s weed biz

Italy may soon jump on the weed bandwagon. A nationwide referendum to legalise cannabis will likely take place early next year. If Italian voters embrace dope, it will spark a domino effect across Europ e.

A new approach to cannabis would have multiple financial and economic benefits, as the U.S. and Canadian experiences shows. Italy’s market for recreational consumption is probably worth around 8 billion euros, an average of estimates compiled by National Research Council researcher Piero David shows. Currently this is a boon for local and foreign criminal gangs who dominate the illegal weed market in Italy. But once legalised and taxed at 75%, roughly in line with cigarettes, it would add 6 billion euros a year to Italy’s strained state coffers. More savings would come from fewer trials and jail detentions.

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There are other advantages. Under Italian law, recreational weed use in small quantities and consumption for medical purposes is allowed. But selling and producing the herb is a criminal offence. The state holds a de facto production monopoly for legal usage but cannot meet rising demand. Medical consumption alone jumped 30% year-on-year to 1.1 tonnes in 2020, state data show. Allowing new players to produce cannabis for multiple uses would add 35,000 new jobs, say supporters. That’s not unthinkable: U.S. jobs linked to legal marijuana doubled to 321,000 in three years, says cannabis marketplace Leafly.

Italy could also gain a stock market edge. Canada’s decision in 2018 to legalise recreational marijuana triggered an initial public offering frenzy, but this has yet to flood Europe. Being based in a country where private use is openly legal would give Euronext-owned

(ENX.PA)Borsa Italiana an advantage vis-à-vis other European markets.As the U.S. experience shows, once individual states take the plunge on cannabis, the economic advantages become visible to all. It triggered a domino effect across America. If Italy crosses the sticky weed line, European neighbours will also follow.

Followon TwitterCONTEXT NEWS- The organisers of a pro-cannabis referendum in Italy said on Sept. 18 they had gathered the 500,000 signatures required to trigger a nationwide referendum early next year.- If confirmed, the vote will seek to legalise the growing of weed for personal use and ease sanctions on other cannabis-related crimes.

- Around 57% of those polled by Sondaggi Bidimedia in May said they were in favour of legalising cannabis. A poll by Eurispes last year showed 52% of those polled were against.Editing by George Hay and Karen KwokBreakingviewsReuters Breakingviews is the world's leading source of agenda-setting financial insight. As the Reuters brand for financial commentary, we dissect the big business and economic stories as they break around the world every day. A global team of about 30 correspondents in New York, London, Hong Kong and other major cities provides expert analysis in real time.

Read more: ReutersBreakingviews »

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