Politics in Italy are hotting up, with less than two months before
general elections on April 9. The latest controversial topic is a new law
approved this week that will increase penalties for marijuana offences
and abolish the distinction between soft and hard drugs.

The government of Silvio Berlusconi assured passage of the measures, according to The Guardian,
“by tying them into a bill providing the necessary legislation for
security measures at the Turin Winter Olympics”, effectively making it
a vote of confidence.

reports that “people found in possession of cannabis could risk having
their passport and their driving licence suspended … Under the new
rules, dealing and trafficking in drugs – whether heroin, cocaine or
cannabis – will be punished with jail sentences of between six and 20
years and a fine of up to 260,000 euros.” This despite the fact that
“10% of adults are said to smoke [marijuana] on a regular basis.”

Apparently the new law is the brainchild of Berlusconi’s deputy,
Gianfranco Fini. His National Alliance is the lineal descendant of
Mussolini’s Fascist party, and Fini’s words (quoted in The Guardian)
certainly sound like the authentic voice of fascism: drug-taking, he
said, was a “rejection of the most elementary duties of the individual
towards the various communities in which he or she lives.”

But Berlusconi is trailing in the polls, and the left-wing opposition
has promised that the law will be repealed if they win government. How
refreshing to see a party in election mode not afraid to stand up
against anti-drug hysteria. Contrast with Victoria’s Steve Bracks, who happily leaps onto the Howard government’s bandwagon, yesterday
saying we should “get the notion of recreational drugs out of our
language altogether.”