Consumption of hemp flower in Italy went up during the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown, despite its sale being illegal in the country, a survey has revealed.
The CBD company EasyJoint – which has since been suspended from doing business pending the start of a narcotics trial for its own sale of hemp flowers – commissioned the survey, which ran between 14th and 19th April. It gathered responses from 1,437 users about their CBD flower consumption and the reasons behind it.
The survey found that, on average, consumers used 2.93 g of CBD flowers per week before the lockdown, a figure which increased to 4.01 g per week during the lockdown. Among them, 14% consumed more than 5 g per week before the lockdown, during which their consumption went up by 25%.
The reasons stated for taking CBD flowers remained consistent before and during lockdown. Relaxation and recreational purposes (24% and 23%) were the most popular reasons; 22% used it as a substitute for cigarettes or cannabis; 20% said they used it to sleep better or relieve sleep disorders. Other popular reasons included improving mood, focusing better, aiding physical problems, and relieving anxiety.
Consumers thought the use of CBD flowers was helpful during the lockdown. Half said it helped to relieve stress or anxiety, while 22% said it helped reduce their consumption of tobacco (11%) or other substances (11%). Only 13% said it did not help them at all.
Lockdown changes purchase channels
Most respondents to the survey were men (78%) and aged between 25 and 55 (86%). Interestingly, this contrasts with the illicit cannabis market, where Italian users are more likely to be aged between 15 and 24, according to a report by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).
Unsurprisingly the lockdown also changed how people shopped for their hemp flowers in a country where recent court decisions continue to indicate the sale of flowers is not permitted under current law. Prior to lockdown 45% of Italian consumers bought online while 39% bought in local cannabis shops. Only 10% bought from state-licensed tobacconists.
Such a choice underlines that CBD consumers need more in-depth information about CBD and consider tobacco shops inadequate for it, according to the survey report.
The purchase of CBD-based products via cannabis delivery services became the only option for consumers during the lockdown.
JustMary, one of the most popular such services in Italy, said its sales increased 500% in April, achieving the company’s total revenue forecast for 2020 in the first four months of the year.
What This Means: The survey commissioned by EasyJoint seems to indicate that, despite the wishes of prosecutors and other enforcement officials, the sale of CBD flowers in Italy continues unabated. In fact it seems to be increasing if it has not fallen back to pre-lockdown levels.
Given that some 10% of sales before the lockdown took place through government-regulated tobacconists – a similar situation to that in Spain – the Italian authorities might do well to reconsider their position against cannabis light, as hemp flowers is often called in the country.
There is some indication that this might be on the horizon but for now – as shown by the forced shutdown of EasyJoint – selling CBD flowers in Italy remains a perilous proposition no matter what the public thinks.
– Dario Sabaghi CBD-Intel contributing writer
Photo: Pietro Luca Cassarino