People from around the world associate Italy with its world-class art, food, and rich history. The country is home to the 8th largest economy globally and the 4th largest economy in Europe. Now Italy is becoming increasingly known for is medical cannabis.
Though doctors have legally prescribed for many years, Italy’s medical cannabis program was limited until recently and largely relied on imported products. In 2014, the government began to allow domestic cultivation, with its military placed in charge for security purposes. But it has not been enough to meet surging demand, and there remains a significant reliance on imports. All that will soon change, as the Italian government recently revealed their plan to triple domestic medical cannabis cultivation in 2020, authorizing the production of up to 500 kilograms of cannabis flower in the coming year.
Currently, Italy is home to an estimated 20,000 medical cannabis patients. Most of the flower these patients use comes from the Netherlands, with Aurora Cannabis being the only Canadian company authorized to legally supply medical cannabis to Italy. Other European countries, such as Germany, also have medical cannabis programs that are reliant on imports to meet the needs of their citizens. However, these same countries, as well as Italy, are realizing that in order for their respective programs to reach their full potential, they need to produce cannabis domestically.
Some of the benefits for countries to produce their own medical cannabis include patients receiving their medicine faster, fresher quality of the medication, local job creation, which in turn boost local economies, and better supply chain control and oversight. Another consideration is that Italy’s estimation of 20,000 patients is a low figure for a population of 60 million people. If every patient that wanted to use medical cannabis in Italy actually signed up to do so, the figure would be significantly greater.
It is assumed, as it is in other countries around the world, that many seek their cannabis from unregulated sources due to the legal options not being desirable enough. Boosting domestic production could help address the issue of reducing the black market.
Johnny Green is the Media and Content Director for the International Cannabis Business Conference and has been writing about cannabis culture since 2010.