Italy Country Drug Report 2019

Drug laws and drug law offences

National drug laws

In Italy, the Consolidated Law, adopted by Presidential Decree No 309 on 9 October 1990 and subsequently amended, provides the legal framework for the trade, treatment and prevention, and prohibition and punishment of illegal activities in the field of drugs and psychoactive substances. Drug use itself is not mentioned as an offence, but possession for personal use is punishable by administrative sanctions (such as the suspension of a driving licence or other privileges). Since the implementation of Law 79 of 16 May 2014, a distinction is made between less dangerous drugs in Schedules II and IV and more dangerous drugs in Schedules I and III. Administrative sanctions for personal possession offences may be 1 to 3 months’ loss of privilege for the former and 2-12 months’ loss of privilege for the latter. If a person is found in possession of illicit drugs for the first time, administrative sanctions are not usually applied, but, instead, the offender receives a warning from the local Prefect and a formal request to refrain from use. A socio-rehabilitation and therapeutic programme may be offered in addition to administrative sanctions.

The threshold between personal possession and trafficking is determined by the circumstances of the specific case, such as the act, possession of tools for packaging, different types of drug possessed, the number of doses in excess of an average daily use, the means of organisation, etc.

The penalty for supply-related offences, such as production, sale, transport, distribution or acquisition, depends on the type of drug, as specified by the schedules described above. In the case of more harmful drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, trafficking is punishable by 8-22 years’ imprisonment, while offences related to the supply of less dangerous drugs (such as cannabis) attract a penalty of 2-6 years’ imprisonment. However, when the offences are considered minor, the terms of imprisonment are 6 months’ to 4 years’ imprisonment (for all drug types). Evaluating whether or not the offence is minor in nature should take into account the mode of action, possible criminal motives, the character of the offender, conduct during or subsequent to the offence, and the family and social conditions of the offender.

In previous years, Italy addressed sales of new psychoactive substances using consumer safety laws, but since 2011 several generic substance groups have been added to the main drug control law.

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Drug law offences

Drug law offence (DLO) data are the foundation for monitoring drug-related crime and are also a measure of law enforcement activity and drug market dynamics; they may be used to inform policies on the implementation of drug laws and to improve strategies.

In 2017, there were more than 73 000 drug law offenders, the majority of whom were involved in offences related to the use/purchase/possession of drugs for personal use (52 %). More than half of all offences were cannabis related; the next most prevalent DLOs were cocaine- and heroin-related offences.


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Methodological note: Analysis of trends is based only on those countries providing sufficient data to describe changes over the period specified. The reader should also be aware that monitoring patterns and trends in a hidden and stigmatised behaviour like drug use is both practically and methodologically challenging. For this reason, multiple sources of data are used for the purposes of analysis in this report. Caution is therefore required in interpretation, in particular when countries are compared on any single measure. Detailed information on methodology and caveats and comments on the limitations in the information set available can be found in the EMCDDA Statistical Bulletin.