Italy’s constitutional court on Wednesday struck down a controversial drug law – approved in 2006 – that tripled sentences for selling, cultivating or possessing cannabis, making the penalty equivalent to “hard drugs” such as cocaine and heroin.
The constitutional court said the law was “illegitimate”, without going into further details.
According to Reuters, this new ruling could set free as many as 10,000 inmates who were imprisoned due to the nation’s harsh cannabis policies.
The 2006 law, which raised sentences for cannabis possession, cultivation and sales from 2-6 years, to 6-20 years, has led to a drastic increase in those in prison due to cannabis; in fact, 40% of Italy’s inmates are incarcerated for a cannabis-related offense.
After today’s ruling, the 2006 law will be repealed, reverting the nation’s cannabis policies back to 1993, when it was considered a “soft drug”, carrying significantly lower penalties than the possession, cultivation or sales of hard drugs.
“The so-called drug war as conceived in North America has been lost and it’s time to return to rational rules that distinguish between substances,” says Franco Corleon of Society of Reason, a human rights group that praised today’s ruling.