Don’t call it marijuana ice cream: It’s cannabis creme gelato. Lucky locals from the quaint coastal village of Alassio—situated in Liguria, along the eastern coast of Italy—can now enjoy a scoop of the aptly dubbed “Marley” (as in Bob) flavor at Perlecò, a local gelato shop. Emanuela Baudana, the owner of the shop, has long been known for launching far-out flavors like beer and lavender creme. But for the cannabis gelato, she had a little help from her friends at Canapa Ligure, a legalization advocacy group.
Alberto Barbieri, the founder of the organization, is humble about the part his group played in incorporating marijuana into the local gelato. “Our role in the production of the ice cream was simply connecting the shop with the seeds seller,” he explains: Medical cannabis has been legal for patients with valid prescriptions in Italy since 2013. Last month brought even more legislative progress. A bill was passed that eased punishments for medical marijuana growers; they now face slap-on-the-wrist fines rather than jail time for growing-related violations. Nevertheless, a civilian caught growing without a license, even for personal use, could still face up to a year in prison—and in the worst-case scenario, a fine of up to 4 million euros.
Canapa Ligure is just one part of the national movement for the legalization of cannabis for recreational use, which appears to be running the last stretch of the race. In 2015, a set of legislative measures that would legalize marijuana drew a large amount of support from lawmakers from every end of the political spectrum. It’s been quite encouraging, to say the least. Despite the legal limbo in which cannabis is caught right now, its use is widespread and tacitly accepted by Italian society. So it was no surprise that Canapa Ligure’s collaborations with local restaurant owners have actually taken over the local food scene of this sleepy beach town.
The organization is also promoting the benefits of cannabis by teaching local businesses how to incorporate it as an ingredient in their traditional recipes. It’s definitely an attempt to create a custom flavor for minorities as Gelato-go did for the LGBT community with the Rainbow Gelato earlier this year. So far, the tactic has proven successful: Canapa Ligure has convinced restauranteurs to add the ingredient into everything from gelato to chocolate and pizza—with local pizzaiolos Barcala’ recently jumping on the bandwagon with their pizza base made out of cannabis flour.
Today, the pro-legalization organization continues to provide guidance to local restaurant owners who want to experiment with cannabis as an ingredient. “In general, we try to connect the different local businesses and to provide information on the use of cannabis/hemp,” Barbieri concedes. From getting the right seeds to growing the plants that go best with the dishes they accompany, Canapa Ligure provides support every step of the way.