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Italians are Choosing ‘Light Cannabis’ Over Prescription Medications

Cannabis Prescription

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A new study revealed that when lawmakers in Italy accidentally legalized so called light-cannabis products in 2016, the unintended action and enactment of law brought a significant change: people started using light cannabis for medication.

Many began relying on light cannabis instead of pharmaceuticals. The study from researchers at the York University, United Kingdom found that there was a steep decrease in pharmaceutical sales after the light cannabis was legalized. The study reported that in areas where light cannabis was available, sales of sedatives fell by 10%, antipsychotics fell by 4.8% and anxiolytics fell by 11.5%.

Definition of Light Cannabis

Light cannabis is a compound derived from hemp, a cannabis genus plant. It is often known as a “low-THC” product as it usually contains less than 0.2% of THC, a chemical compound in marijuana plants which alters the state of mind. It has psychoactive properties which is responsible for the high that users feel when they smoke weed.

Contrarily, cannabinoid has healing and anti-inflammatory properties which helps reduce anxiety, stress, depression, insomnia, pain, swelling, inflammation and even treats epilepsy, Alzheimer’s and cancer. CBD was legalized in the United States after Congress passed the Farm Bill in December 2018.

While some in the U.S. have voiced hopes that CBD products could be life changing for them and reduce their ailments, especially those related to mental health, others seem concerned over how it could impact the public in general. Despite the federal law allowing sales and consumption of CBD, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has prohibited CBD infused foods and drinks.

People in Italy apparently have the same hopes, based on their preferences and buying patterns once light cannabis hit the market. By not considering all the implications of a new law expanding the legality of hemp, Italian officials unintendedly made light cannabis or C-light, legal to purchase.

This law meant that even kids who are not allowed to buy tobacco as per their age, could actually buy light cannabis without any serious consequences. Further, it is illegal to smoke or eat cannabis in Italy.

Another unplanned consequence of the new law implied a reduction of the sale of black-market drugs in the Italian Mafia. An estimate revealed that crime’s loses at about 160 to 200 million Euros per year due to this. The change also has the potential to raise more money via taxes from Italy, which has never really recovered after the infamous 2008 recession and has an economy that continues to drag on the European Union.

The other unintended consequence of the light cannabis is that pharmaceutical sales boosted and reached new heights. Researchers called the trend of people buying light cannabis for medical purposes “Do It Yourself Medicine.” They analysed the statistics on monthly drug sales in parts of Italy where light cannabis was also available.

They found a decrease in the sales of the following substances with the light cannabis legalization:

  • Opioids
  • Sedatives
  • Anxiolytics
  • Antiepileptics
  • Anti-migraines
  • Anti-psychotics
  • Antidepressants

The researchers concluded that these sales reduced because people bought light cannabis even though “patient response to the new drugs and therapies is usually heterogeneous and sluggish because of the typical risk aversion.” Nonetheless, CBD has almost negligible side effects which gives more confidence to people when using the drug even for the first time.

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It was also noticed that the way products were becoming available and being sold in Italy, people were not buying low THC containing CBD on the basis of a medical prescription, rather by their own will and choice.

Italian consumers showed an interest in a product which was accidentally legal and likely not recommend, despite of this, they bought it anyway. The York University study is likely to be the first among many that investigate this growing trend involving CBD products and light cannabis.

Though people in Italy do not give second thoughts while purchasing light cannabis, officials and stakeholders show concern about how it could impact consumers in the long run. Though it is considered as a safe drug, it still has unknown parts which the researchers are yet to explore.

Even in countries like Canada, United States and the United Kingdom, officials are taking proper and serious measurements against CBD laws which regulate its consumption and ensures the safety of people. Using CBD oil has improved many lives, but it needs to be regulated and put in a format which safeguards its users from any possible side effect, if any.

Ivan writes about Cannabis at The Cannabis Radar. He has a degree in Nutrition Sciences from University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Centre. He likes to spend his spare time reading to his daughter or spending time with his wife.

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