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Italy steps closer to referendums on cannabis and euthanasia

Eight referendums to be assessed by courts next month.

Italy's constitutional court is to rule on the validity of eight referendums on 15 February, including one referendum each on legalising euthanasia and cannabis, and six on justice reform.

The two highest-profile of the eight referenda relate to euthanasia and cannabis, which received the green light from the court of cassation on Wednesday after it validated the signatures gathered from the public in petitions.

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

In both cases the number signatures - a large amount of which were gathered online via Italy's digital identity system SPID - were well in excess of the half a million threshold required to trigger a public vote.


The cannabis petition called for a referendum to legalise the growing of marijuana for personal use and scrap prison sentences for selling small amounts of the drug.

In November the right-wing Lega and Fratelli d'Italia (FdI) failed to in their attempts to sink 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 - an ally of the Lega and FdI - abstained from voting.


The euthanasia petition called for a referendum to abolish a clause in a 1930 law that punishes the homicide of a consenting person with up to 15 years in jail.

The campaign received a boost in November after Italy's first medically assisted suicide case was authorised by the ethics committee of the Marche regional public health authority.

Assisted suicide is a divisive issue in Italy and faces strong opposition from conservative politicians and the Vatican which condemns it as "an intrinsically evil act."

The other six referendums awaiting judgement from the constitutional court next month concern a range of justice reforms, relating to issues including pre-trial preventive custody;  keeping careers separate between judges and prosecutors; and a modification to the existing anti-corruption Severino law which prohibits politicians with felony convictions from holding elected office.

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