The Italian government has turned to its armed forces to help it grow medicinal marijuana, after street dealers failed to provide weed of a high enough quality. Appointed to oversee the operation is the rather aptly named Colonel Antonio Medica, who told the Times that “the police offered us cannabis they had seized but it is not up to the standards we want.”
Medical marijuana is currently available in more than 20 US states, as well as several other countries around the world. In Italy, it is offered to people suffering from multiple sclerosis, those recovering from chemotherapy, and others with chronic pain who have not responded to traditional painkillers.
The main active ingredient in cannabis is a molecule called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which binds to the cannabinoid receptors in the central nervous system in order to get people stoned. This usually includes a numbing of certain physical sensations, leading to a reduction in pain, as well as an increase in appetite – otherwise known as the munchies – and occasionally, hysterical giggling fits.
For its medical grade weed, the Italian government wants to use cannabis with a THC concentration of 20 percent, and made the decision to call in the army back in 2014 to help achieve this. Having been involved in the pharmaceutical industry for over a century, producing medicines for injured soldiers, the military boasts a wealth of medical expertise, and can also offer a level of security that other producers can’t.
The rank and file are therefore swapping their Valentino-designed uniforms for lab coats in order to operate a special weed-producing facility in Florence. “My mission is to produce the best-quality cannabis on an industrial scale at a low price,” explains Medica, who hopes to produce 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of the drug per year for just €8 ($8.87) a gram. Previously, Italy has been importing its medical marijuana from the Netherlands, paying almost double that price.
As well as allowing medical marijuana, Italy is considering joining the few countries currently leading the way in drug policy reform by legalizing recreational cannabis. Politicians are set to vote on whether or not to pass a new bill that would decriminalize the possession of up to 15 grams (0.53 ounces) of weed for personal use later this year.