Italy court rejects referendum to liberalise cannabis

Court approves five justice reform referendums but rejects liability of cannabis and euthanasia votes.

Italy's constitutional court on Wednesday rejected a petition to hold a referendum on liberalising the use of cannabis, after judges declared it inadmissible.

The ruling was a major blow to weed activists who had gathered 630,000 signatures in a petition, well above the half a million threshold required to trigger a public vote.

The referendum had proposed to legalise the growing of cannabis for personal use and to scrap prison sentences for selling small amounts of the drug.

The constitutional court president, former premier Giuliano Amato, told reporters that the referendum also referred to "so-called hard drugs", stating: "This was enough to make us violate international obligations."

MP Riccardo Magi, a member of the liberal +Europa and a leading advocate of the cannabis referendum, told news agency ANSA that the court's ruling was "incredible", saying: "In this country it is impossible to put forward referendums."

The court's decision came the day after it rejected calls for a public vote on the decriminalisation of euthanasia - despite a petition signed by some 1.2 million people - saying the proposal did not safeguard the minimum constitutional standards governing the protection of human life, "particularly for the weak and the vulnerable."

That ruling was slammed "as bad news for democracy" by Marco Cappato of the Luca Coscioni right-to-die association and a driving force behind the referendum bid.

Also on Wednesday the court gave the go-ahead to five referendum proposals relating to aspects of the justice system which will be put to a public vote in 2023.