At long last, domestic Italian cannabis is available for the medical community, which is, as they say, fantastico!
Antonio Medica, the Italian Army Colonel responsible for growing all of Italy's medical marijuana, has completed the first portion of his special assignment to cultivate the plants in pristine, heavily guarded indoor facilities.
His crop was a success: Army officials announced that the first shipment of 1,600, 5-gram jars is ready for shipment to Italian hospitals and pharmacies. Italy passed medical marijuana laws in 2007, but the country has been importing cannabis from the Netherlands at a price deemed too high for Italy's patients, so the government has stepped in.
The 1,600 Italian-made cannabis shipments are lined up on a table at a pharmaceutical plant in Florence — little medical soldiers awaiting further instructions. Final directives are expected to come in the next few days after the Ministry of Health gives its approval.
Each crop takes the army soldiers about 90 days to grow from seed to packaged product, providing up to four harvests for a total of about 70 pounds a year.
The next step for Italian medical marijuana is for the cultivators to create different strains of the plant to treat a wider variety of medical conditions. The Ministry of Health is hoping eventually to yield 100 kilograms (220 pounds) per year. Despite government assurances, medical marijuana patients have said that amount won't be enough.
Though the crop size is small, the domestic cultivation of cannabis in Italy marks a significant step toward the end of marijuana prohibition in Western Europe. Italy's move effectively opens the door to a domestic cannabis industry in a country known for high-quality manufacturing, particularly in the worlds of food, automobiles, fashion, and design.