In a heavily-guarded lab in Florence, many hundreds of a new type of marijuana plant are being grown. It’s part of the Italian army’s latest mission, to grow medical grade cannabis for the nation.
General Giocondo Santoni directs the business unit at the military pharmaceutical facility in Florence.
“We expect to make this drug available by the end of this year in a quantity of about 100 kilos (220 lbs), which is double the amount that we are currently importing from the Netherlands.”
Italy legalised the use of medical marijuana in 2007, meaning patients suffering from cancer, sclerosis and chronic pain have relied on the plant for relief.
Pharmacist, Marco Ternelli has been selling Dutch marijuana since 2013.
“During the last year demand has skyrocketed, creating two problems. One, there is not enough cannabis for everybody right now and the other, that doctors haven’t yet understood that it is legal to prescribe it, or they are not familiar with it, so they don’t prescribe it.”
Ternelli has heard of many problems from patients suffering from chronic pain with traditional painkillers offering little or no relief.
Daniela Frosolini has suffered from chronic sinus pain for years. Doctors prescribed pain killers but nothing worked.
“I’ve tried all the medicines in the world, to the point that I was reduced to a zombie,” she explained. “I also had hallucinations at night, until I discovered that I could use cannabis. My pain decreased dramatically; it made it almost disappear. The only problem is the high cost.”
Importing cannabis hikes up prices. For 25ml of cannabis oil, it can cost more than 400 euros per month. With homegrown marijuana the army could help not just relieve pain, but the financial burden as well.