Italy moves closer to referendums on cannabis and euthanasia

Eight referendums will be assessed by the courts next month.

The Italian Constitutional Court must rule on the validity of eight referendums on February 15, including a referendum on the legalization of euthanasia and cannabis, and six on the reform of justice.

The two most publicized referendums of the eight concern euthanasia and cannabis, which received the green light from the Court of Cassation on Wednesday after validating the signatures collected from the public in petitions.

Right-to-die activists have secured more than 1.2 million signatures in a petition calling for a referendum to decriminalize euthanasia, while weed advocates have amassed 630,000 signatures in their campaign.

In both cases, the number of signatures – many of which were collected online through Italy’s digital identity system SPID – far exceeded the half-million threshold required to trigger a public vote.


The cannabis petition called for a referendum to legalize the cultivation of marijuana for personal use and remove prison sentences for selling small amounts of the drug.

In November, the right-wing Lega and Fratelli d’Italia (FdI) failed in their attempts to halt the progress of the cannabis petition by tabling a “suppressive amendment”.

However, the motion was rejected by the centre-left Partito Democratico (PD), the populist Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S) and the liberal +Europa, while the centre-right Forza Italia – a Lega and FdI ally – abstained from voting.


The euthanasia petition called for a referendum to repeal a clause in a 1930 law that punishes the killing of a consenting person with up to 15 years in prison.

The campaign received a boost in November after the first case of physician-assisted suicide in Italy was cleared by the Marche regional public health authority’s ethics committee.

Assisted suicide is a divisive issue in Italy and faces strong opposition from conservative politicians and the Vatican who condemn it as “an inherently evil act”.

The other six referendums awaiting a judgment by the constitutional court next month relate to a series of justice reforms, relating to issues such as preventive detention before trial; separate the careers of judges and prosecutors; and an amendment to the existing Severino anti-corruption law that bars politicians with felony convictions from holding elective office.

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