Italy legalises weaker form of cannabis

Cannabis for medicinal purposes has been authorised in around 30 countries

Italy's parliament legalised the production and sale of a weaker form of cannabis this week, ending months of uncertainty for farmers and sellers.

Tobacconists and specialised shops will be allowed to stock cannabis products, which must not contain more than 0.5 percent of the psychoactive compound THC, from January 1. 

Parliament approved the amendment overnight on Thursday after a long-running row pitching former interior minister Matteo Salvini against small business owners and the agriculture lobby.

Far-right leader Salvini had vowed to close all shops selling so-called cannabis light.

Italy's agriculture association Coldiretti welcomed parliament's move, noting that the area under cannabis production in Italy had grown from 400 hectares (988 acres) in 2013 to 4,000 hectares last year.

"It's the end of a nightmare," Luca Fiorentino, founder of cannabis supply firm Cannabidiol Distribution, told La Stampa after the parliamentary vote. 

"After Salvini's witch hunt I had to fire 10 people and I lost 68 percent of my revenues." 

Last May, Italy's highest court affirmed that the sale of cannabis was illegal, but gave judges discretion to consider the "narcotic effect" of the cannabis at issue when issuing decisions.