One of Italy’s most famous chefs was arrested on Saturday after police found cannabis plants and edibles in his eastern Sicily home.
Carmelo Chiaramonte had two 6 ½-foot tall marijuana plants and 35 ounces of Indian hemp, according to BBC News. A variety of cannabis-infused foods, olives, coffee, tuna, and even a marijuana-infused wine were also taken from his home.
However, the 50-year-old Chiaramonte, who lives in the quaint village of Trecastagni, located at the foot of Mount Etna near Catania, told police he was simply “researching new flavors” for his job. The chef denied any wrongdoing, telling police he considers himself an “agro-food consultant for third-millennium cuisine,” per the local Italian newspaper La Sicilia.
The food connoisseur has since been released from police custody as he awaits his trial.
Chiaramonte, who is currently a chef at the Katane Palace Hotel restaurant in Catania, rose to spotlight after hosting a popular Italian culinary television show that depicted” the history of production and the tradition of Sicilian agriculture.”
Another one of his most noteworthy shows was “Immoral Recipes and Aphrodisiac Foods.” Rather fittingly, he’s quoted as saying that “A cook is a drug addict and an alchemist.”
But perhaps Chiaramonte would be better suited for a certain American cook show, instead.
Cannabis Laws in Italy
Currently, cannabis is legal — and strictly regulated — in Italy for both medicinal and industrial uses (aka hemp). Medical qualifying conditions include chronic pain, nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, HIV treatments, or radiotherapy. Additionally, it’s permitted to reduce involuntary movements caused by Tourette’s Syndrome, induce hypotension within glaucomas, and as an appetite stimulant for patients suffering from AIDS, cancer, anorexia, and cachexia.
Recreational marijuana isn’t fully legal quite yet, but it has been decriminalized. Those found with small amounts of cannabis for personal use will receive a misdemeanor and are subject to a small fine, as well as a possible suspension of their personal documents like a driver’s license or passport. Alternatively, any unlicensed cultivation — much like the situation that unfolded for Chiaramonte — or the unauthorized sale of cannabis, are still punishable through jail time. Although the country has also decriminalized at-home growing for medicinal purposes.
However, Italy, like other countries in recent years, has experienced its own “cannabis mania.” But the rules are a bit unorthodox, to say the least.
In 2016, the country introduced legislation that would once again regulate Italy’s once-booming hemp industry. The new law allowed for the legal sale of cannabis sativa plants containing under .2% THC — similar to the CBD craze within the United States.
The new laws spawned the sale of what Italians commonly refer to “light weed.” As a result, a large influx of “weed shops” have begun to pop up around the country. Unfortunately, with such a low percentage of THC, feeling a slight, mellow buzz is the absolute best-case scenario.
And while the weed doesn’t get its users “high,” so to speak, there has been a fair share of controversy surrounding the market. But those within the industry think that it could lead to the legalization of the real thing.
“The hope is that the market, which is the strongest power of all, will finally stimulate the public opinion on marijuana as it’s happening for light cannabis now,” Claudio Miglio, a lawyer specializing in drug-related offenses said to The Associated Press back in June.
Public sentiment seems to point toward the eventual legalization of cannabis. Even Italy’s largest police union has clamored for legal weed.
That would certainly bode well for one Carmelo Chiaramonte.