In an effort to lower the cost of legal medical marijuana in Italy and undercut the business of drug dealers, the country’s army has begun to cultivate cannabis in its own facility in Florence. In the past, street dealers were patients’ best route for obtaining cannabis at a reasonable price. Italians will now be able to turn to their government for assistance with obtaining marijuana at a reasonable price.
Italian doctors already had the authority to legally prescribe the drug, but obtaining cannabis through pharmacies proved prohibitively expensive. Until the army began its marijuana-growing program, there were no licensed producers in the entire country. Patients’ only option was to purchase the drug imported from the Netherlands.
On average, one could expect to shell out as much as 35 euros for each gram purchased – about nine times the drug’s local street value. With the new plan, the government hopes to lower the per-gram price to under 15 euros at most, and ideally, to as little as 5 euros. This will provide more patients with legal access to this medication.
Privately cultivating and selling marijuana is still forbidden under Italian law. The government made the choice to use an army lab as its center of production because the lab already has the capability to ensure security.
(Italy’s top cannabis expert, agricultural scientist Gianpaolo Grassi)
Roberta Pinotti, the Italian Defense Minister, pointed to the lab’s surveillance system as a major factor in the decision to produce the drug under the auspices of the army. The Florence facility is a pre-existing pharmaceutical plant that has previously assisted in the production of half a million potassium iodide tablets for victims of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
The facility’s primary purpose is to provide medicines to the military, although officials expect that it will now produce at least 100 kilograms of medical marijuana each year. The Corriere della Sera website reports that they’re well on their way; officials say their first crop is “coming along nicely.”
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