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Mattia Santori's Dilemma: To Break the Law for Self-Cultivation or to Finance the Black Market?

Following the meeting at the States General of Cannabis (Stati Generali della Cannabis), an event that brought together several exponents and advocates of cannabis legalization in Milan, Mattia Santori made one of the most publicized statements. The young man, former leader of the Sardine Movement and member of the Bologna Communal Council for the Democratic Party, publicly expressed that he grows cannabis plants at his home during an interview for the newspaper La Repubblica. Such an admission by such an important figure generated various reactions on both sides of the political arena.

In the context of the event, an atmosphere of gathering among colleagues united by a common cause in favor of the legalization of cannabis in Italy, guided by friendliness and cordiality among friends, Santori declared that he self-cultivates cannabis plants. He detailed that he made several attempts before having a successful plant. He reminisced about the first time he planted cannabis, which he did thanks to his sister, who gave him some seeds after a trip to the Netherlands. Santori added he has been growing for his consumption since he was 18 years old, and he prefers to know the origin of the plant he smokes, rather than financing drug trafficking groups. Mattia said he enjoys smoking cannabis, just as someone enjoys drinking good wine and keeps a few bottles at home.

Tempers Are Heating Up, For and Against Cannabis, in Italy

The day after these declarations, reactions from several political personalities in Italy were many. The news spread all over the world. Undoubtedly, the most notable reaction came from the Fratelli d'Italia party. One of its deputies, Galeazzo Bignami, deputy for the city of Bologna, filed a complaint with the prefecture of Bologna requesting the enforcement of article 75 Dpr 309/90. This article sanctions the consumption of narcotics by members of the Council. Mattia Santori is a member of the Communal Council of Bologna, in charge of Tourism and Youth, now he runs the risk of an administrative sanction for the consumption of cannabis, which is typified within these substances, although he does not run the risk of going to prison.

After the upfront political indignation from the extreme right, Santori defended himself. He argued that by denouncing him, they would be denouncing a State that forces 6 million consumers to resort to the black market to find a product that does not meet even the minimum quality standards. He states they would denounce the 500,000 self-cultivators of cannabis who are constantly criminalized and are still waiting for political representation. Lastly, the young deputy said that in case of being sanctioned, it would make him happy if the episode gives visibility to a real problem in Italy. A situation that is seen as a "low priority" by local politicians, who cataloged the debate on a project decriminalizing cultivation of up to 4 cannabis plants and postponed it to September of this year.

Several personalities linked to the defense and legalization of cannabis expressed their support for Santori, including Franco Grillini, a symbol of the fight for LGTBIQ+ rights in Italy. The activist minimized the scandal by pointing out that half of Italy should resort to self-cultivation. Grillini pointed out that he is another victim of the State's criminalization system, he is a medical cannabis user and had to resort to self-cultivation due to the lack of supply of this drug in Italy.

Santori's statements come amidst the clamor of patients, growers, doctors, pharmacists, and consumers who demand progress in terms of legalization, importation, production, and distribution of cannabis-based products in Italy. However, these voices go unheard in a right-wing-controlled Parliament that is reeling. These people are forced to resort to the black market or break the law and self-cultivate to produce their medicines themselves and be able to continue their treatments.

Finally, days later, Santori called for the abandonment of cannabis-related stigmas. It is time to accept that cannabis is a plant that has been cultivated and consumed throughout history.

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