Rome

Constitutional Court to review Italy's contested drug law

'Serious doubts' about harsh penalties for soft drugs

Constitutional Court to review Italy's contested drug law

Rome, June 11 - Italy's supreme Court of Cassation on Tuesday called on the Constitutional Court to review a controversial law that enshrines a zero-tolerance approach to all types of drugs, hard and soft. The 2006 law, known as the Fini-Giovardi law, made possession of certain quantities of hard and soft drugs a criminal offence with jail terms of up to 20 years for dealers. The law was called into question in its application to a man sentenced to four years in prison and fined 20,000 euros for trafficking nearly four kilos of hashish through the northern city of Trento. The Cassation said the sentence "cast serious doubt on its Constitutional legitimacy". The current law reversed Italy's drug policies by targeting soft drug users, and ending or blurring the distinctions between soft and hard drugs, and possession and trafficking. People found with any drugs above a certain quantity face prosecution with automatic jail terms of up to six years. Below that quantity, offenders can be fined or have their driving licence and passport taken away. Addicts can avoid jail by agreeing to undergo rehabilitation. The crackdown sparked controversy by trumping a 1993 referendum in which Italians voted to decriminalise the use of drugs, allowing only pushers and traffickers to be prosecuted. Critics argued that prohibition forced users underground, benefited the mafia and did nothing to help addicts. They say the drug possession amounts above which users face prosecution are very low and that millions of Italians face jail if caught.

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