Creating the light cannabis market in the EU: the Italian consumer experience
We conducted an ad-hoc online survey in winter 2019 to investigate the consumption of low-THC cannabis in Italy. Our survey expands moves from a previous data collection conducted by Frank Zobel identifying the mechanisms behind the substitution effect and consumption preferences, focusing on flowers as the main mode of consumption.
Our preliminary results indicate that the substitution effect of low-THC cannabis is stronger for illicit cannabis than for cigarettes. In parallel, economic concerns are more frequent among those who reduce their cigarette consumption, compared to those who reduce their illicit cannabis consumption. Few declare using it as a substitution for other legal and illicit substances. Consumers show a preference for varieties specifically targeted for consumption, which cannot be legally produced in the EU. Packaging is relevant in consumer preference for this class of products. The opinion of consumers on the effect of light cannabis appears to depend on the purpose of use.
The substitution effect between light cannabis and cigarettes calls for a rethinking of the most adequate distribution channels for specific sub-products of low-THC cannabis. Preferences for hybrid genetics push toward a reform aimed at avoiding possible asymmetries and distortions of the legal market both across countries and between licit and illicit suppliers. While the emergence of the low-THC cannabis market is likely to increase interception costs for law enforcement, consistent European rules should minimize this negative externality while protecting public health and potentially contribute in the replacing of existing illicit markets.