Italy’s Military Wants to Grow Even More Medical Cannabis to Meet Rising Demand
… but would you consume a strain designated “Military Pharmaceutical?"
Published on January 4, 2023

Italy’s military has a domestic monopoly on medical cannabis production. The country’s armed forces are constantly looking toincrease the amount of the green that their facilities are turning out, in part, to render Italy self-sufficient when it comes to its weed needs.

“Italy is growing plants using secret nutrients in ultra-clean rooms managed with military precision,” reported military news site DefenseNews, in an article cited by High Times and Italy’s Panorama. “No wonder it called in the Army to handle the task.”

According to DefenseNews, a site owned by the military-focused Sightline Media Group, Italy’s armed forces are aiming to produce up to 700 kilograms of cannabis per year, which is half of the country’s total reported need for pain relief. Last year, production tapped out at 300 kilograms.

But journalist Fabrizio Dentini’s analysis of sales numbers from Italy’s Ministry of Health suggest that, in 2021, the military grew just 102 kilograms of weed.

Does it seem odd that the armed forces would be tasked with managing Italy’s weed production? As Colonel Antonio Medica, who's in charge of the Italian military's cannabis lab, told the press back in 2017, “We spent 40 years trying to stop the troops smoking it in the barracks, and now we are producing it ourselves.”

The incongruous pairing of guns and grass has to do with the Italian military also overseeing the Military Chemical and Pharmaceutical institute, a 160-plus-year-old organization. The institute has been a part of some very heavy-duty pharmaceutical business, as well — according to DefenseNews, these activities have included, “chemical warfare antidotes and malaria pills for soldiers.”

Regardless of how much is really getting grown, the dank that is coming from Italy’s army has played a pivotal role in our understanding of at least one cannabinoid. A study published in Nature found one military-grown strain led to the discovery of THCP, which has been known to cause twice the intoxication in rodents as its more famous cousin, THC.

Be that as it may, not everyone is impressed at the job the military has done in terms of getting the green to Italian’s medical cannabis patients.

“The government monopoly over medical cannabis production in Italy has been an unmitigated failure,” Prohibition Partners analyst Conor O’Brien told BusinessCANN this year, citing undersupply as a serious consequence of the armed forces’ control over the crops.

Italy has had legal medical marijuana since 2007, and in 2016 passed regulations surrounding the cultivation of hemp for medical use and for creating hemp-derived CBD products. The nation has passed some decriminalization measures around certain uses of cannabis. In 2021, activists gathered a half-million signatures from voters who want to expand these protections. 

The nation currently imports the vast majority of its cannabis from other countries — typically, in other European governments like Holland, Denmark, and Germany in addition to Canada, whose Aurora Cannabis was the first foreign supplier licensed to import by the Italian government.

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Caitlin Donohue
Caitlin Donohue is a Bay Area-raised, Mexico City-based cannabis writer and author of She Represents: 44 Women Who Are Changing Politics and the World. Her weekly show Crónica on Radio Nopal explores Mexican marijuana culture and politics in the prohibition era. Follow Caitlin on IG @byrdwatch.
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