Some might say the Italian army has gone to pot. In an effort to reduce the cost of medical marijuana for citizens who suffer from chronic pain and other conditions, the Italian military has started a cannabis farm.
The plants are being grown in a secure room in a military-run pharmaceutical plant in Florence, the BBC reported, citing the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. The army expects to produce 220 pounds of marijuana per year and also plans to dry and pack the drug for distribution.
"The aim of this operation is to make available to a growing number of patients a medical product which isn't always readily available on the market, at a much better price for the user," Col. Antonio Medica told the newspaper.
Medical marijuana can be beneficial to treat a variety of conditions, particularly managing chronic pain. Doctors can legally prescribe the drug and pharmacies can sell it in Italy, but the cost isn't covered by the state, making it unaffordable for many patients.
Many pharmacies import medicinal marijuana from abroad - primarily from the Netherlands – but it costs up to 35 euros (about $40) per gram.
"We're aiming to lower the price to under 15 euros, maybe even around 5 euros per gram," Col Medica said.
The army laboratory was chosen for the project because it already had the necessary facilities and could guarantee security with a strong surveillance system in place, Italian Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti said.
Private cannabis cultivation is still illegal in Italy, and selling the drug is also against the law.