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The Cannabis Social Clubs of Italy

The underground cannabis social clubs of Italy – CSCs – provide medical marijuana to their member-patients. All CSCs are non-commercial organizations that organize the production and distribution of small quantities of marijuana, just enough to cover the needs of members.

In Italy, personal consumption is somewhat tolerated but cultivating, buying, and selling weed is illegal. Italy legalized cannabis for medical purposes in 2013 under a special program overseen by local healthcare services, Azienda Sanitare Locale.

One CSC located, in the heart of Rome, started out as a small group who grew its own marijuana for the personal use of its members. In 2001, the social center identified three of its members who were medical patients, gave them their own bags of cannabis, and began looking for more people who could benefit from easy, continuous access to marijuana. Now with a focus on medical marijuana patients, the CSC was born.

“CSCs are based on the empowerment and responsibility [of individuals],” says Alberto, a CSC member and one of the main growers who cultivates the marijuana for the members who are unable to do so for themselves.

“Patients are not too afraid. Health is a basic human right,” says Alberto. Some members have gone to court for growing – cases that have since been thrown out – and the police once paid Alberto a visit. But as a CSC member’s daughter points out, “Who’s going to arrest a sick person?”

CSCs are a not-for-profit operation. Alberto emphasizes that “It’s a closed circuit. Everyone must show signed medical documentation clarifying their sickness and diagnosis, he explains, and all patients must already be consumers. He adds, “We don’t buy and we don’t sell.” Theoretically, this set-up helps to shield them from legal problems. And, although they operate in this gray area and provide what many believe is a valuable service for people, CSCs is still vaguely illicit.

In February 2014, Italy overturned Senator Giovandari’s co-authored bill that equated cannabis with heroin, making the penalties for marijuana possession much less strict. And the CSC benefits from Article 12 of the Charter of Fundamental Human Rights of the European Union, which states, “everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association at all levels.”

Italy finally legalized cannabis for medical purposes in 2013 after growing pressure to do so from both medical and recreational marijuana supporters. As a result, Azienda Sanitare Locale was formed; it is the special medical marijuana program that is overseen by local healthcare services.

Under this program, medical marijuana is imported from the Netherlands, and then tax and transport costs are applied, driving up costs by nearly double what it would originally sell for. A gram can go for 38 euros, or $49. Depending on how much is needed, a patient can easily pay up to 1,000 euros, or $1,200, a month for treatment. As a result, only about 60 patients have signed up for the program. For those who want cheap and easy access to weed to alleviate their medical symptoms, the restrictions put in place by the government are at best a nuisance and at worst, dehumanizing.

So, for some small groups the CSCs are the best bet at getting the medicine they need.

With medical marijuana and recreational marijuana becoming more widely accepted in this country, it might be difficult to know if your use has become more of a habit or even an addiction. If you think that your marijuana habit has gotten out of control, help is available. More and more people are seeking treatment for weed because, for them, it has become a problem. Call us toll-free at 1-800-951-6135 to speak with an Addiction Specialist who can answer your questions, day or night.

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