Italy is to grow medical marijuana to make it easily available to the sick. But it will be grown at a secure military lab.
The laboratory already produces “orphan” drugs no longer made by large pharmaceutical companies that are needed to treat rare diseases, said Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti after signing an agreement with Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin.
“The institute already produces some medicines,” Pinotti added, explaining the unusual case of tasking the military to grow pot. “And we can guarantee security conditions.”
Lorenzin said she wanted to “debunk all the cultural or ideological myths” about using certain drugs in health care.”
“We already allow the use of drugs in medical treatment that are opiate or cocaine derivatives, and now we’ll use cannabis,” she told reporters.
“Recreational drug use is harmful. But cannabis can be used to help treat certain pathologies or alleviate pain,” she said.
Possessing, selling and growing marijuana are illegal in Italy, which now imports all of its medical supplies of the drug, mostly from the Netherlands.
The use of cannabis by-products has been legal in Italy for seven years, but expensive. So just a few people took it through the national health system.
Italy’s choice to keep tight control of the production of marijuana contrasts with the the United States where almost half of the 50 states allow sick people to grow their own, or in some states to buy it from healthcare facilities.
The “pilot project” should result in the medicines being delivered to pharmacies by the end of 2015, according to Lorenzin.
Private pharmaceutical companies will not be able to produce medical marijuana “given the delicacy of this issue,” she said.