The possession and distribution of drugs is a very delicate issue, especially in relation to the specific aspect of the statute of limitation.

Criminal law on this matter is ruled by Presidential Decree n. 309/1990 (Consolidated Law on Drugs) which contains the rules concerning the arrest for drug dealing, illegal possession of drugs and drug trafficking organizations.

Our legal system does not include a full definition of narcotic substance or psychotropic substances, since our regulatory framework is based on a principle which classifies substances in a table attached to the aforementioned Presidential Decree, which is periodically updated by the Ministry of Health.

The Article. 73 of the Consolidated Law defines the following conducts as punishable:

  • cultivation, production, manufacture, extraction, refining;
  • dealing, offering, sale, transferring, receiving, obtain for others, distributing, trading;
  • carrying, sending, transit, dispatching in transit, delivering and possession;
  • export and import of drugs.

A specific offence to mention among all the types of offenses related to the possession and dealing of drugs, is the offence of Criminal association for the purpose of drug or psychotropic substance trafficking (Article 74), of facilitating the use of the substances de quo (Article 79); inciting others to use narcotic drugs, proselytism and induction to use (Article 82).

Production, possession and dealing of drugs: the penalties

Today the laws concerning the possession and dealing of drugs are essentially based on the distinction between light drugs and hard drugs and apply lighter punishments for crimes related to the first and harsher for those related to the second ones.

In detail:

a) criminal irrelevance of personal use of narcotics. In this case that person does not commit a criminal offence but an administrative one pursuant to the article 75;

The assessment of the destination of the drugs (whether for personal use or transfer to third parties which represents a criminal offence) is made by the judge using some parameters such as:

- the quantity;

- the quality and composition of the substance;

- the use of equipment for weighing or packaging of the substance and the concrete circumstances of the case.

b) the criminal nature of the conduct described in the article 73 paragraph 1, in the event that the activities related to the importation, purchase or possession are aimed at the dealing. In this regard, the penalty imposed is different according to the type (light or heavy) of the drugs:

1. for "heavy" drugs (Tables I and III):

- with imprisonment from eight to twenty years and with the payment of a fine from € 25,822.00 to € 258,228;

2. for "light drugs" (listed in Tables II and IV):

- with imprisonment from two to six years and with the payment of a fine of 5,164 euro to 77,468 euro.

The paragraph 5 of the article 73 also provides for minor crimes, which are punished with imprisonment from six months to four years and with the payment of a fine from euro 1,032 to euro 10,329, without distinction between light and heavy drugs.

Detention and dealing of drugs: Criminal association for the purpose of trafficking

Besides the articles that regulate the possession and dealing of drugs, the article 74 punishes also the associations, (complicity of three or more people in the offense) that is the case in which a group of people establish an organization aimed at illicit trafficking of narcotic or psychotropic substances.

The paragraph 1 of the article 74 punishes with the most serious imprisonment penalty of not less than twenty years those who "promotes, establishes, manages, organizes or finances" the association with the purpose of enriching himself with the drug trade.

The simple associate, however, is punished with imprisonment of not less than ten years, pursuant to paragraph 2 of article 74.

Today, most of the drug trafficking toward Europe takes place by sea, through the two major regional airports: in the south, in Spain and Portugal; in the north, in the Netherlands and in Belgium. The main route for cocaine is the Atlantic one as matter of fact coca plantations are found in three countries: Bolivia, Colombia and Peru.

There are numerous associations aimed at the detention and the international drug dealing (international drug trafficking), and many are the drug load and ship seizures operated in the major Italian harbors (Palermo, Gioia Tauro, Naples and Livorno).

In fact it happens often that the ship owner is subjected to the seizure of the ship for crimes committed by the ship's staff, with the subsequent need for the same to prove at the trial his innocence in order to regain his ship.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.