The Italian Hemp Rush: The Post-election Future Of Cannabis

The “hemp flower-rush” has reached Italian soil, and is not driven by patient demand. Of course, strains of Canadian cannabis are exported to Italy through Germany, but this is secondary news. A more prevalent phenomenon is happening within the hemp market, and it is not merely driven by those who want to get high. A reform implemented last year has boosted Italy’s fledgling hemp industry, with an expected 80% increase in acres of cultivated land.

The new legislation has resulted in a de facto removal of substantial red tape from hemp production. Any farmer can now grow legal cannabis with a level of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) superior to most European countries (except Switzerland).

Although most Italian hemp is grown to produce seeds or fiber these outputs are not the engine of market growth. The trigger of change is the de facto liberalization of the market for hemp flowers. In 2017, the supply could not keep up with the demand, making it the most profitable crop sold within the Italian market. Often called “cannabis light”, consumer interest is driven by its large percentage of Cannabidiol (CBD), which induces a more sober feeling of relaxation.

The pioneers in this industry are EasyJoint, a company responsible for both opening the market and acting as a major supporter of the entire supply chain. They supply farmers with seeds and cuttings to re-buy the flowers, which are then packed and sold to the final customer. This business model appears to be functioning extremely well, and its founder, Luca Marola has declared revenues of over two million dollars within the first nine months of activity. Besides enriching shareholders, this has significant repercussions on the primary sector, providing jobs for over 700 Italian farmers.

The future looks bright for cannabis light, with large exports of flowers and derivatives expected to other EU countries in the coming months. This phenomenon comes in a very hot period for Italian politics, just after the election where comedian Beppe Grillo’s pro-legalization party won the largest share of Italian votes. It may be difficult to predict the future, but soon hemp may not be the only type of cannabis exported out of Italy.

Davide Fortin

Economist specializing in Drug Policy. Université Paris 1 - Panthéon-Sorbonne, Center d'Economie de la Sorbonne, PhD Candidate

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