Italian teenagers can smoke joints on school trips, as long as they are
sharing them rather than selling them, an Italian court has ruled.

Francesco, a student from Rome, was caught with enough hashish for 40
joints during a school excursion two years ago when he was 17, and fined
€1,250 (?830) for selling it to his classmates.

He appealed saying he had bought the hashish on behalf of a "smoking group"
of friends and simply collected their financial contributions afterwards.

The court ruled on Thursday that this constituted "group possession", and
was therefore not a crime. The substance "could easily have been consumed
during the many days of the trip", the court ruling said.

Since 1993, possession of hashish is legal in Italy, though it can lead to
police seizing a driving licence or passport. Growing, selling or
distributing it can mean a prison sentence.

Possession was made legal in Italy as early as 1975, after a high profile
campaign by members of the Radical party, who publicly handed out free
joints to crowds and on television.

But in 1990, possession was recriminalised, as America launched its "war on
drugs". Three years later 52% of Italians voted in a referendum to legalise
marijuana for personal use.

While Canada, Spain and Australia, as well as some US states, have
legalised the medical use of marijuana as a treatment for chronic
illnesses, in Italy doctors still have to obtain authorisation from a
magistrate.


Pubdate: Sat, 08 Feb 2003
Source: Guardian, The (UK)
Copyright: 2003 Guardian Newspapers Limited
Contact: letters@guardian.co.uk
Website: http://www.guardian.co.uk/guardian/