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First Vape Lounge for Cannabis Patients Opens in Rome

November 29, 2016

Of the districts in Rome to visit for their nightlife, San Lorenzo isn’t the most glamorous—it’s no Trastevere or Pigneto—but it may be the most intimate. Which makes it a fitting home for Rome’s first cannabis vape lounge. Founded by patients, Canapa Caffé not only serves food and drinks made with hemp, it also allows on-site consumption by registered medical patients.

“It’s a new, risky thing, but it’s needed,” co-founder Carlo Monaco told Leafly, noting that Italian patients currently have very few places to consume. “Officially we cannot vape here, only in our homes.”

While the lounge is open only to registered patients and permits the consumption only of registered medical cannabis products, the social setting nevertheless means Canapa is breaking the law. Article 79 bars drug use in public venues, Monaco said, though he considers the restriction “quite unconstitutional since it interrupts a therapy.”

The project doesn’t come without risk, Monaco added. He and co-founder Luigi Mantuano “could face a €10,000 fine and four years in prison for an act of civil disobedience.”

Italy’s New Medical Cannabis Bill Aims to Address Old Obstacles

The two men were inspired to launch the project after being stopped by police shortly after attending a cannabis meeting in the Italian Parliament. During the incident, the said, their legal, medical cannabis was confiscated and Monaco’s driver’s license was revoked (without cause, he says, as he’s a registered medical patient).

Today Canapa Caffé offers visitors a range of food and drink options, including a quick lunch or dinner. They “give special attention to local biological [organic] productions with dishes based on hemp oil, seeds, and flowers,” Mantuano said.

But the duo doesn’t want to stop there. The popular quarter of San Lorenzo, just a stone’s throw from Rome’s central Termini Station, has long been considered a revolutionary location, due both to its political history and its current culture. The district is partially encircled by large, Roman walls that keep it relatively isolated, and it’s home to cannabis shops, pubs, and alternative restaurants. Canapa Caffé, which opened in October, plans to help contribute to the activism by organizing cooking courses, live concerts, and other events to inform members about legislation, medical use, and relevant domestic and international news.

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Monaco and Mantuano are even considering launching a local chapter of the Canapa Info Point (CIP) network, a growing initiative that has a presence in cities across Italy. The association, says CIP founder Markab Matossi, aims to “demonstrate that cannabis users are not a local danger and that it’s wrong to label them as drug addicts.”

“We give information about the plant and its many derivatives,” Matossi continued, “while the managers of local branches try to create a local network of doctors, patients, lawyers, etc., to support all those wanting to start a cannabis-based project.”

In addition to supporting the launch of Canapa Caffé, Matossi said, CIP is also supporting the mountain village of Saracinesco, near Rome, “where, with the Tuscia and Tor Vergata universities, a project is underway focusing on CBD-rich strains for CO2 extraction.”

Enrico Fletzer's Bio Image
Enrico Fletzer

Born in Venice, Enrico Fletzer began work as a journalist in the free radio movement and has gone on to write for newspapers and magazines in Europe and North America. He has translated books and films on cannabis and has participated in research in Bologna, Europe's former hemp capital, that led to the Italian Army's cannabis program. He is a member of the Steering Committee of Encod, the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies.

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