To become self-sufficient in the production of medical marijuana, Italy is cultivating plants with covert nutrients in military-grade sterile environments. According to DefenseNews, Italy’s army aims to produce more than 1,500 pounds of high-quality marijuana or about 50% of the estimated 3,300-plus pounds that the nation needs each year to meet the needs of those who use it to manage their chronic pain from diseases such as Parkinson’s disease or cancer.
Cannabis is imported into Italy from Canada, Holland, Germany and Denmark. With the opening of the military facility in Florence, however, the country hopes to produce a premium product with an unrivaled dosage at a cost comparable to imported cannabis.
The Florence operation, which began operations in 2014, achieved 110.2 pounds in 2020 and expanded to 661.4 pounds in 2022. This expansion was made possible by increasing the number of growing rooms from two in 2016 to 10 most recently. To achieve the 1,500 pounds of cannabis required this year, lab technicians are working on improving watering, lighting, and ventilation. They also use a mix of top-secret nutrients created internally.
Nicola Latorre, head of the Italian agency in charge of the project, also stated that the lab intends to produce olive oil infused with cannabis that users can consume in the form of drops. He went on to say that five privately owned businesses were working to provide additional mother plants to help facilitate growing the plants. He made it clear, however, that the country would continue to handle the main operation to ensure cost and quality.
Officials noted that the military was chosen as the legal marijuana grower and supplier for several major reasons: first, it could guarantee strict security; and second, its involvement in the production of medicinal drugs for a long time, having offered medications and treatments to wounded soldiers since the 1800s.
Additionally, the military produces orphan drugs, which are treatments for uncommon illnesses that most pharmaceutical companies avoid due to their low production volumes. Four of these medications are currently produced by the military to serve 3,000 Italians.
For the two marijuana strains that it grows, the military has produced the trademarks FM2 and FM1, meaning Farmaceutico Militare (translating to Military Pharmaceutical). Tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical that creates the high associated with marijuana use, is present in varying amounts in each.
This is not the first time the army has been involved in the growth of medical marijuana. According to a 2014 report by The Independent, the country announced that the army would assist in increasing medical cannabis production, with the first secure growing facility opening in Florence in April 2015. As a result, the army began growing large crops of cannabis to drive the drug’s price down to around $8.50 per gram in 2016.
As nations such as Italy try to establish their own cannabis production systems, they are likely to keep depending on international suppliers such as Flora Growth Corp. (NASDAQ: FLGC) while waiting for their local capacity to grow to the required level.
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