Marijuana in Italy and Aurora Cannabis’s Growth

Italy set up a new parliamentary intergroup for discussing the 2016 citizens’ initiative for cannabis legalization on October 24. Currently, more than 50 members from the left have joined the group. This move stems from the customers’ demand to reduce the country’s shortage of medical marijuana and decriminalize marijuana in Italy. The parliament will debate this topic in the coming months.

There are loopholes in Italy’s cannabis laws

There has been a lot of confusion about the legal status of cannabis and its derivatives in Italy. As reported by JD Supra, Italy passed Law 242/2016 (Law No. 242 of 2 December 2016) legalizing the cultivation of hemp, provided the THC content does not exceed 0.2%. The DPR 309/1990 (Presidential Decree No. 309 of 9 October 1990) decriminalized the cultivation of hemp for farmers. This decree, however, requires that the crop’s THC content is not more than 0.6%. The intent of Law 242/2016 was to promote the cultivation of hemp for industrial purposes. However, businesses in Italy misinterpreted it as general legalization of cannabis products. They started commercial activities for cannabis with a THC content under 0.6%, referred to as “cannabis light.”

On May 30, the Italian Supreme Court attempted to clear some of the misinterpretations of Law 242/2016. The court maintained that light cannabis is also a controlled substance and has to adhere to the requirements of DPR 309/1990. The ruling stated the sale of cannabis derivatives such as oils, resins, buds, and leaves was illegal. It was also clarified that the decriminalization of hemp with a THC content under 0.6% is restricted only to farmers and does not apply to other operators in the supply chain. However, there remains significant confusion about the legal status of sales of other CBD or cannabis products such as infusions, candles, biscuits, soft drinks, crystals, clothing, and cosmetics.

Italy allows these uses of hemp and derivatives

As reported by LexBlog, all 28 EU member states allow the cultivation of hemp from EU-certified seeds. However, every country has its own set of regulations governing permissible THC levels and hemp’s end uses. Italy has permitted the use of hemp and its derivatives in food and cosmetics, subject to compliance with all European and domestic laws. Hemp and its derivatives can be used in oils, fuels, fiber, wood chips, green building materials, and green manure, for bioremediation, and for educational or research purposes.

Medical marijuana trends

As reported by Marijuana Business Daily, Italy accounted for 4% of the medical cannabis products sold in the EU in 2018. The Netherlands and Canada accounted for 61% and 35% of the production, respectively. Marijuana Business Daily estimates total EU sales of medical marijuana to be 4,165 kilograms. This estimate involves various forms of cannabis flower but does not include sales of imported full-spectrum extracts or cannabis-based pharmaceutical products.

In 2018, pharmacies sold around 650 kilograms of cannabis flower in Italy for an average price of 18 euros per gram. The total medical marijuana sales in Italy of around 11.7 million euros were centered around the Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna, and Apulia regions. Italy is the second-largest medical marijuana market in the EU. Canadian licensed producer Aurora Cannabis (ACB) accounted for 100 kilograms of medical marijuana sold in Italy. Bedrocan, through the Office of Medical Cannabis in the Netherlands, supplied 400 kilograms of medical marijuana in Italy. Finally, the Italian Armed Forces through the SCFF (Stabilimento Chimico Farmaceutico di Firenze) produced 100–150 kilograms of Italy’s medical cannabis.

Marijuana Business Daily estimates 2019 medical marijuana sales in Italy will reach 900 kilograms. It foresees the SCFF producing up to 200 kilograms, and Bedrocan exporting the remaining 700 kilograms to Italy from the Netherlands.

Aurora Cannabis in Italy

In July, Aurora Cannabis entered a two-year supply contract for medical marijuana with the Italian government. The company agreed to supply at least 400 kilograms of medical marijuana to Italy from its Canadian and EU facilities. Then, ACB emerged as the sole winner of three supply lots in Italy. However, the company significantly reduced its average selling price from 3.2 euros per gram in early 2018 to 1.73 euros per gram in July 2019. Canopy Growth (CGC), Tilray, Wayland, and Medicinal Organics Cannabis Australia failed to fulfill all requirements of the tender process. Subsequently, they were disqualified.

However, on November 1, Marijuana Business Daily reported the cancellation of one of the three ACB lots in September. The Ministry of Defense canceled Lot 3 due to non-compliance with EU good manufacturing practice standards. This move was based on ACB’s failure to carry out stability studies for defining the shelf life of high-CBD cannabis. Based on the SCFF’s opinion, the Ministry of Defence claimed that that the 40 kilograms of high-CBD cannabis from Lot 3 were “not necessary.”